The Potato Heartland

Potato Bowl Celebrates Football and Potatoes

Celebrating potatoes and football in one mega event in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, the 52nd Annual Potato Bowl USA provided festivities for football and potato lovers of all ages. This year’s event, held Sept. 5-9, 2017, offered a variety of activities, including a French fry-eating contest and parade, and, of course, a football game.

Ted Kreis, director of marketing and communications for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA), Grand Forks, MN, along with several area potato growers and shippers, has been involved on committees coordinating this event for a number of years. This year’s festivities were kicked off with Hugo’s Potato Bowl Plinko game and continued with a golf tournament.

A potato chip giveaway and a baked potato bar at all Hugo’s retail store locations, “The World’s Largest Fresh Fry Feed” and fireworks were among the events held at the University Park & Memorial Stadium. A French fry-eating contest sponsored by J.R. Simplot, and a potato giveaway sponsored by Black Gold Farms, were also held. Black Gold Farms gave coupons redeemable for potatoes at any Hugo’s location to the first 500 families to enter the gates at Memorial Stadium, plus a chance to win Hugo’s gift cards. Kids also got a free glow stick courtesy of Black Gold Farms.

Potato Bowl 1K and 5K races, along with an evening concert and street dance in Grand Forks highlighted the Sept. 8 events.

The final day of the extravaganza started with a pancake breakfast before the Potato Bowl Parade. A mega tailgating party preceded the annual football game at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, ND. In a great ending to the week’s festivities, University of North Dakota shut out Missouri State with a score of 34-0.

The first-ever Potato Bowl game was in 1966 and was billed as a battle between the two largest potato-growing regions in the United States, Idaho and the Red River Valley. Festivities surrounding the celebration of potatoes and football continued to increase, and the event grew more popular with each passing year.

The idea of creating a week of activities joining together football and potatoes was originally put together by several administrators and coaches at the University of North Dakota (UND). Although UND is no longer always pitted against an Idaho college for the big game, the tradition of celebrating potatoes with football has remained.