Many Potato Day traditions remain the same |

Many Potato Day traditions remain the same

According to an excerpt from the 1998 historical book, “Elk Mountain Odyssey” by Paul Anderson and Ken Johnson,

Potato day was described as:

“At first, the celebration was free and featured roasted meat and cream-style potatoes in the skin, all prepared by area ranchers and farmers.

“Starting Friday night, an oak fire heated a huge barbecue pit. Beef was seasoned with sauce and wrapped in cloth, burlap and poultry wire, and when the heat was just right the meat was dumped into the hot coals. The pit was covered with iron doors and eight inches of soil, so any seeping smoke betrayed a flaw in the air-tight seal needed for a good barbecue. Eighteen hours later, the beef was cooked to delectable tenderness and ready for the celebration supper.”

Many of those same traditions continue today, right down to the barbecue methods. Local farming and ranching families kept the festival’s traditions alive through the years, even as the potato industry ceased.

Carbondale native Wally DeBeque, former owner of the Dinkel Building on Main Street and grandson of Carbondale founder William Dinkel, recalled that when he was young, Potato Day took place in several locations, beginning at a vacant lot on Second Street. In other years, he said, it took place at a park on the north side of Main Street, and in a large open area where Carbondale Middle School now stands. In those days, a rodeo was held on site.

There were also dances held in various locations, including the Odd Fellows Hall, the old Co-op Potato Barn that used to stand near the railroad tracks, and an abandoned mercantile space in the Dinkel Building.

In 1994, the local Zeta Epsilon and Xi Gamma Tau sororities took over organization of the event. And for many years now the festival has coincided with Roaring Fork High School’s homecoming weekend activities.

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