Carbondale celebrates its ghosts of past Potato Days
For most of the last 15 years, Luke Nestler has had a front-row music seat at the annual Potato Day festival in Carbondale.
Not only is his perch right next to the music stage in Sopris Park, he’s been the primary gatekeeper for the yearly KDNK music sale — one of the many fundraisers for the community radio station.
Saturday marked Nestler’s last official act as the longtime music director for the radio station. He’s set to retire from that job and move on to some other things.
“I’ve been on staff for 15 years, and I’ve been doing a regular show on the air since 1989, which — oh my god — that’s 30 years,” he said as early morning music enthusiasts filed through bins full of vintage vinyl records and compact discs.
“I love watching all these music nerds drool all over the records,” Nestler said. “And when they bring it to me to pay for it, I love looking through it and seeing what people like.
“The thing I learned pretty early on is, it doesn’t matter your politics, it doesn’t matter who you are or what your job is, or anything — everybody likes music … I just love that,” he said.
The KDNK record sale is just one of the many traditions that have grown up around the more-than-century-old Potato Day festival.
At 110 years, it’s Carbondale’s oldest festival. And with the “Ghosts of Potato Days Past” theme, Saturday’s installment provided a picture-postcard sunny fall day for the celebration.
Over at the cowboy coffee caldron, Jim Barnett was busy catching up with people over a cup of joe.
The key to cowboy coffee — “slow cookin’ over a hot fire,” he says.
“We lit the fire at 6:30 this morning, and put the coffee in about 7, so it’s been boiling for about two and a half hours,” Barnett said just before the parade.
The caldron itself is an old copper kettle that was once used at a dairy farm outside town to make cheese. It’s now owned by the town and brought out just once a year for the cowboy coffee at Potato Day.
Barnett has been the coffee master for about 15 years.
“This used to be potato farming country, and this is harvest time — so it’s pay day,” he said of the heritage behind the Potato Day festival. “We don’t do too many potatoes around here anymore, but it’s still a big tradition.
“I just like seeing all the people, and visiting,” he said.
April Spaulding was a parade announcer for the second year in a row, joining KDNK Station Manager Gavin Dahl on the judges stand on Main Street.
“I just love that Potato Day is a very, very local Carbondale tradition,” she said. “It’s been going for a long time, and I love seeing all of our residents out at the park and here at the parade.”
Parade entry honors this year went to Mason Morse Real Estate, Bishop Plumbing and the Ross Montessori School.
Johnny Davis and Ann Samuelson had a choice spot sitting along the parade route. They’ve each been to 50-plus Potato Days.
“I love everything about it … just sitting here and watching. I think it’s absolutely terrific,” Davis said.
Added Samuelson, “I just like all the excitement in the air. The parade was great this year, and I love the theme.”
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