Grab a brochure, ask for directions, and hey, can you get chives on this thing?
Along with the usual pamphlets and smiles, Idaho visitor centers will serve up free steaming spuds for travelers on Monday.
It’s a gimmick started at a potato festival way down in Blackfoot, Idaho, said Georgia Smith of the Idaho Department of Commerce. The idea is to plug Tourism Awareness Week across the state. “We call it ‘taters for out-of-staters.”
Trouble is, up in these parts, there isn’t a potato peeling plant within 120 miles. The closest one’s in, sheesh, Washington.
While starchy Russets rule the day in Southern Idaho, the state’s northern counties look to white pines and jackleg drills for handy symbols of the area’s economic virility.
Local visitor centers are trying to compensate. The Kootenai County Convention and Visitors Bureau office in Post Falls will happily fork up some of the tubers, donated by Twin Falls’ Keegan Potatoes.
“But we’re also going to have a lot of other things,” said Nancy DiGiammarco, who heads the bureau. “We’ll have tree seedlings, and seed packs along with potato candy bars and all sorts of good things.”
Travelers not sated by the spread in Post Falls have only to drive a mile or two east to the Huetter Rest Stop for a whole new spread of baked goodness.
“Well, you know, normally I think we get our potatoes up here from Washington,” said Bernice Achin-DeBoever, assistant manager at the big rest stop. “But we asked Boise to send up 350. We think we’ll get at least that many people. If we run out, we’ll just go out and buy more.”
The spuds come raw, so Rustler’s Roost restaurant has gladly chipped in ovens, plates and utensils to make the feast complete. Achin-DeBoever was to spend today “begging for sour cream and all the goodies that go on them.”
Northern Idahoans get a tad touchy when forced to swallow the trappings of their southern brethren. Sandpoint’s Convention and Visitor Center, for example, has chosen not to participate at all, but will have its center open for business.
Smith at the Commerce Department said the plan is to have these kinds of giveaways each year.
“Maybe next year we won’t do potatoes,” she said. “I think we’ll try something else.”