For the past two months, a group of four avid trail users have been placing Mr. Potato Head figures along the Boise Foothills trail system. They created an Instagram account — @idahoshredhead — to promote the idea and share photos of people who run across the toys. The group prefers to remain anonymous — “We think it’s more fun that way,” they said — but agreed to a Q&A through the Instagram account. Here’s why they’re doing it, the reaction they’ve received and how many more potatoes you can expect to see.
Q: Where did the idea to place Mr. Potato Heads on the trails come from?
A: “The idea for the Shredheads came to us on a trail ride last year. Four of us were hanging out at the top of Dry Creek trail and talking about how it would be cool to have a unique trail name sign hanging over the entrance to the trail — something to make it more memorable. The conversation turned to some of the fun and unique things we’ve seen on trails in different places we’ve traveled to — like the metal art you see at trail intersections in Bend (Ore.), or like a rubber chicken we saw hanging on one side of a trail fork in Squamish (B.C.), “denoting that it was the easy way down.” We were discussing that it would be fun to have something unique like that on our own trails to make the experience more memorable and fun and give our trails a unique flavor. Someone mentioned the idea of Mr. Potato Head and we all laughed and thought it was great! I mean, how much more Idaho can you get than that? Then the idea came up to paint them gold to promote awareness of the fact that Boise-Eagle has been honored with a Gold-level Ride Center designation by IMBA (the International Mountain Biking Association). This designation is a big deal because it drives mountain bike-related tourism and, we hope, continued enhancement of an investment in our trail system. There are only four Gold-level Ride Centers in the U.S.: Park City (Utah), Oakridge (Ore.), Duluth (Minn.) and Boise-Eagle, so it puts us in a small and elite class of mountain bike towns which all local trail users, and our community as a whole, should feel proud of.”
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Q: How many potatoes are there?
A: “We purchased a lot of 27 Mr. Potato Heads on eBay over the winter and got together to paint them in March. We put the first one on Hard Guy trail in late April. Since then, we’ve placed 20 more at various locations across the Ridge to Rivers trail system, from our farthest west location in Hidden Springs to our farthest east location in the Homestead/Cobb area. We have six left that we will be placing on the trails in the coming months. We don’t have an end date in mind. The project has been so fun for us that we may buy more and continue: TBD. We are really getting a kick out of seeing people having fun in the pictures and we enjoy hearing what they like most about the different trails in the area.”
Q: Are some of them actually missing? If people move them, how do you know?
A: “We know of at least three Shredheads that have gone missing and suspect that others are missing as well. We don’t have an easy way of knowing if one has been removed or has been moved to another location. Our hope, of course, is that they’ve been moved to new locations vs. removed altogether. We encourage trail users to take the Shredheads for a ride and put them elsewhere in the local trail system. They love a good #joyride! It would be great if folks who move them would give us a clue to their new location when they post on Instagram. We obtain our intel from posts we see on Instagram and other forms of social media, and by riding the trails ourselves.”
Q: Do you have a favorite?
A: “It’s hard to choose because we think they are all adorable! But, if we had to pick one, we would say Sweetie Spud (currently on Sweet Connie trail) because she seems to be the favorite among trail users. She has beautiful blue eyes, long eyelashes, pouty lips and blonde locks and she is looking and reaching out in the same direction — like she’s asking you to take her hand. There’s something about seeing grown men take a #selfiewithaspud with her that is particularly endearing and really melts our hearts!”
Q: I’ve heard them called anything from fun to litter. What type of feedback have you received?
A: “The reaction to the Shredheads has been overwhelmingly positive. The only negative responses we’ve seen were from three people who commented on your Outdoors Blog on Facebook. We were disappointed to see that, but we also know that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. There are always going to be some people who are ‘wet blankets’ and will oppose even the best ideas. To the #taterhaters, we say, ‘lighten up, have some fun, show some community spirit and indulge your inner child by taking a #selfiewithaspud!’
We have been thrilled to see that the Shredheads have been embraced by all types of trail users — not just mountain bikers. We’ve seen pictures posted by hikers, runners, bikers, and even some pictures of dogs posed with them! It’s great to see people having fun with them and we hope their presence adds to the enjoyment of their trail experience.
We also hope they unite the different types of trail users on a certain level. It’s far too easy to fall into the mindset of “us vs. them” on the trails sometimes. If you look across the myriad of pictures that have been posted of the Shredheads, it’s clear that we have more in common than we don’t. At the end of the day, we’re all just people out recreating on the trails — we just choose to travel on them in different ways.”