Potato Day, the quiet festival | PostIndependent.com

Potato Day, the quiet festival

Ivy Vogel
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ IV Potato Day story Jim Barnett, right, pours Doug Pratt, left, a cup of "cowboy coffee" at Potato Days in Carbondale Saturday. The 15 pounds of coffee grounds began boiling at 6:30 a.m., making 100 gallons of java.

A little boy dressed as a potato almost ran into a sign as he walked down Main Street in Carbondale with his mom Saturday morning.”You’re wearing that because it’s Potato Day,” said his mother, giving the little boy something to tell his shrink in 10 years.At the Potato Day parade in Carbondale, the little boy wasn’t the only child dressed as something other than himself.Little kids dressed like witches and ballerinas came out of the shadows about a month too early to watch the traditional potato parade.After the parade everyone followed puffs of smoke to Sopris Park where they talked, ate, listened to music and ate some more.”The great thing about potatoes is that there are so many ways to prepare them,” said Paul Nieslanik, who was selling homegrown potatoes at the festival. “For breakfast you can eat hash browns, fry potatoes for lunch and bake them for dinner.”

Although it’s about one to two weeks early to harvest potatoes, Nieslanik brought several bags of Yukon, Red Pontiac and Nakota potatoes. Potatoes are planted May 15 and harvested in early October after the ground is slightly frozen, Nieslanik said.When the ground is frozen, it allows the potato skins to set, Nieslanik said.Across the park, several young men with gloved hands pulled racks of potatoes out of a fire pit and dumped them into boxes for the barbecue.Sopris Park has two pits. At 5 o’clock Friday night, volunteers put 740 pounds of beef wrapped in cheese cloth in the first pit. The beef cooked overnight and was accented with oak and apple wood for flavor.The second pit housed the potatoes, which started cooking at 8 Saturday morning.Half an hour before the barbecue started, a thick line of people wound through the park waiting for coleslaw, barbecue sandwiches, potatoes, baked beans and ice cream.”I love doing this because I get to see people that I used to see all of the time,” said Verne Soucie, former Garfield County Sheriff.Soucie has poured coffee – which cooks in the cauldron – for the festival for 20 years. When Soucie was sheriff, he volunteered a posse of officers to pour the coffee. When none of them showed up, he picked up the slack and has been pouring coffee ever since.

Like Soucie, Ed and Linda Colby, who own Colby Farms in New Castle, go to Potato Day to see people they don’t get to see every day.The Colbys moved from Carbondale to New Castle in 1993. In 1995, Ed Colby took over 50 bee hives. The bees produce honey for most of the year, Colby said.In the winter, the queen bee sits in the center of a ball within the hive. The other bees fly around the queen to create warmth and keep the other 20,000 bees warm.Ed and Linda sell honey, Italian plums, concord grapes and apples.Everything at the Colby stand is sweet and delicious. The grapes are so tender and luscious they fall from their skin the minute they hit a warm tongue.”I like to say that it helps me cut down on my Snickers expense,” said Colby.No matter what the food – sweet, sour or salty – Potato Day warmed the bellies and hearts of many Garfield County residents.

Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comBy the numbers: Amounts of food at Sopris Park Saturday740 pounds of beef1,320 potatoes24 gallons of baked beans100 gallons of water mixed with 15 pounds of coffee

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