September 9, 2012 in City

Doug Clark: Commission’s promo is no common tater

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

The Idaho Potato Commission displays its 6-ton tuber replica in front of the Capitol in Boise on Friday. It plans to truck the potato, made from steel, plywood, foam and concrete, around the country promoting the state’s signature agricultural crop.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Ever since the Dawn of Man (or, for you feminists, the Dawn of Chicks), human beings have created mysterious, larger-than-life wonders that were meant to endure the mildew of time.

The Great Pyramid. Stonehenge.

Oprah …

And now, the brainiacs at the Idaho Potato Commission have rolled out a spectacle to behold.

The “Great Big Idaho Potato Truck.”

Picture, if you will, a gleaming red semi hauling a flatbed trailer that is topped with a 28-foot-long, 11.5-foot-tall potato replica.

When I heard this tuber tumor was coming to Spokane, well, I knew I had to put aside my usual deep thoughts and go take a gander.

And so on Friday morning, I pulled my aged Jaguar into the Yoke’s parking lot on North Foothills Drive – and gasped.

There it was in all its brown bulbous glory.

The last time I saw anything so rotund, Gregory Peck was attempting to harpoon it.

The potato czars thought sending Moby Spud on a road trip across America would be a grand way to promote potatoes as well as draw attention to the organization’s 75th anniversary.

Wow. How time flies. Why, it seems like just yesterday when we were all buying black “over-the-hill” balloons for the Idaho Potato Commission’s 40th.

But this is not all for laughs. No sir.

Big Potato is also linked to a worthy cause – namely, raising money and awareness for the Meals on Wheels program.

This is definitely a magnet for the curious.

After shopping, David Kutcher felt compelled to drive his white truck over to where I stood.

I asked: “What does Big Potato make you think of?”

“Fish and chips,” he answered before adding, “And the City Council.”

I can see that. Although Tatersaurus would be a better bet on getting the potholes fixed.

It wasn’t long before I spotted a young man who had Idaho Potato Commission patches on his shirt and red cap. Being an experienced journalist, I figured the lad either had no social life or something to do with this freak show.

Sure enough, Ellis Nanney is one of Big Potato’s three-member crew.

Nanney and I made some small talk. Then, feeling sly, I complimented the potato commission for not using the Dan Quayle “potatoe” spelling on all the signage.

Nanney stared at me blankly.

“Who’s Dan Quayle?” the 23-year-old asked.

Um, nobody important.

Nanney handed me a Big Potato postcard. It features a snappy photo of the rig plus some positively amazing facts, such as …

FACT: “It would take more than 10,000 years to grow this giant potato.”

FACT: “If it were a baked potato, it would take two years and nine months to bake.”

FACT: “Like Frank Straub, Big Potato is also not qualified to be Spokane police chief.”

Fascinating stuff.

Here’s another juicy nugget.

According to Ellis, “Is it real?” is the No. 1 question these tater teammates must answer wherever they go.

“Is it real?”

A 6-ton potato?

Yikes. No wonder the country’s IQ is so au gratin.

Big Potato is an artist’s clever creation of wood, concrete, paint and something Nanney called “Hollywood sculpting foam.”

Big Potato is also hollow.

I know this because Nanney let me climb up on the flatbed and take a look deep inside the dank bowels of the bogus baker.

I hoped to see a groovy pad with shag carpet, a wet bar and some Mr. Potato Head toys.

Unfortunately, Big Potato’s innards look like the janitorial closet at a public high school. Metal lockers. A couple of bicycles. A ladder …

This is light years away from Oscar Mayer Wienermobile standards.

Once, years ago, I got to sit shotbun in a Wienermobile ride through downtown Spokane. I remember the interior being upholstered and quite comfy.

It was like being in a fancy submarine on wheels.

Best of all, the driver let me hold the microphone and holler “Eat your weenies!” at startled pedestrians.

And people wonder why I didn’t go further in my newspaper career.

Oh, well. At least it’s good to see the Idaho potato being celebrated again.

It wasn’t so long ago that whenever Idaho came up in conversation it had something to do with neo-Nazis.

Fortunately, most of those duds are long gone and we can get back to appreciating Idaho for things that count.

Before saying so long, Nanney introduced me to his travel mates: Paul Humbracht, 42, and Kaiti Frickey, 21.

These three seem eerily good-humored considering they’ve racked up 12,000 miles with many more to go.

If I were stuck in Big Potato that long I’d be in a vegetative state. This trio is so positive and cheery, although it could be antidepressants.

Being young helps, I’m sure. Frickey, for example, is already planning for her future.

“I know I’m going to be explaining this for the rest of my life,” she said.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 ordougc@spokesman.com.


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