Idaho doesn’t always get its fair share of recognition (for crying out loud, sometimes people can’t tell it apart from Iowa). But, even out-of-staters recognize us for our popular produce: the potato.
It took about one year to construct the concrete potato. It was ready to go by 2011 for, what was assumed to be, a temporary promotion.
“In the beginning, it was only intended to be a one-year campaign,” said Laura Martin, tour manager for the big tater. “We weren’t really ready for how popular it was going to be.”
With that high demand, the Idaho Potato Commission (which is behind the truck) decided to let it keep running. Now it’s an established tour, set to run indefinitely, with a season lasting from March until the end of September.
We decided to take a look at one of our popular potato promoters, the Big Idaho Potato Truck. We broke it down by the numbers.
It’s not real, but it’s really big
The big potato lives up to its name. It weighs 12,000 pounds: That’s 6 tons, folks.
It’s 12 feet wide, 13 and a half feet tall and it rests on a truck bed 72 feet long.
Keep on truckin’
This potato’s been around, driving through all 48 continental states and racking up about 102,000 miles since it first set out.
It’s seen 4,000 cities, and stopped over in 400 cities for scheduled events.
The potato has been to about 22 scheduled big events, with crowds of more than 350,000, like the Kentucky Derby and the Chicago St. Patrick’s Parade. It even met up with a giant pistachio in New Mexico. Awkward.
‘The Tater Team’
The potato is staffed — yes, this potato is big enough for a staff — with three employees on the crew, formally know as the “Tater Team.” (Informally, the three guys refer to themselves as the “Spud Studs.”)
The team manages events, but often, Martin said, they’re just getting out of the way for excited locals to get photos with the spud. And though they are scheduled to go on specific events in certain locations, they end up introducing the potato to people everywhere they go.
“When these guys pull into a restaurant to go eat, or stop to get fuel or whatever, it becomes an event,” Martin said. “It's got it's own gravitational pull.”
Big spud, big heart
Potatoes care too. The potato was originally partnered with national charity organizations, but last year the program started donating money to local organizations, Martin said.
They donated about $10,000 to local nonprofits across the country in the 2015 season. Donations were dolled to regional organizations in $500 sums.
So far they’ve almost matched last year’s giving and they’re only two months into their season, Martin said.
Don’t forget about Idaho’s smallest spud
As we celebrate the Big Idaho Potato Truck and its cross-country adventures, let’s not forget its predecessor, the Idaho Spud Bar — that beloved lump of cocoa-colored marshmallow. Introduced to Idaho, America, and the world, in 1918, it’s approaching its century mark, with many more years to come.
Idaho Spud Bar, by the numbers, courtesy of the Idaho Candy Co., founded 1901:
666,666 feet: Laid end-to-end, the length of Idaho Spud Bars made each year. That’s enough to reach the top of Mount Borah (at 12,655 feet, Idaho’s highest mountain) 53 times.
160,000: The number of coconuts needed to produce the 40,000 pounds needed each year to make Idaho Spud Bars.
200,000,000-plus: Idaho Spud Bars produced in the past century.
16,467: Number of gift boxes sold in 2015 with Idaho Spud Bars inside.
1: Number of candy bars named after vegetables. The venerable Idaho Spud Bar is in a class of its own.