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HeadlineBy John Bodine
So what significance does the potato have in the minds of the citizens in Barnesville and surrounding area? So esteemed was the potato that in a special meeting, on the 17th of June, 1938, a group of local citizens decided to honor the potato by having a celebration - a large celebration - tentatively to be held over the Labor Day weekend. It fell upon the Barnesville Booster Club to determine the exact nature of the celebration, and upon Milton Peppels’ shoulders were placed the burden of leading this committee of planners.

Originally, it was planned to have scheduled events over a two-day period, but it soon became apparent that it was to be a formidable task to arrange activities for one day, much less two.

By July 28th, the schedule of events began to take shape. The local Barnesville Booster Club overtook to sponsor the event. Milton Peppel was designated General Chairman. The main focus of the celebration would be a potato picking contest. Plans were ambitious. Tentative “political” speakers were put on the schedule throughout the day — there was a hot governor’s race going that year and Minnesota gubernatorial candidates Elmer Benson, Harold Stassen, Thomas Gallagher, were all invited to speak. In addition, all the candidates for local county offices were given the opportunity to express their respective views.

And what would a “Potato Days” celebration be without a special potato recipe treat! It was decided that a prepared Norwegian potato dish, “Potet Suppe”, would be served to all, free of charge. (Ed. note: Rumor had it that the vote for the Norwegian “Potet Suppe” was unanimous after someone by the name of Olaf Yenson suggested they might serve lutefisk?) Bands, Drum and Bugle Corps, races, merry-go-round, parades, were all arranged — it was to be a spectacular celebration!

A sideline of the schedule of events was proposed, that all Barnesville businessmen had to get into the spirit by wearing “potato sack” clothing — vest, apron, coat, trouser, made from potato sack(s). They must wear this attire for 10 days up to and including the day of the celebration.

The penalty for breach of this mandate was “four-bits” fine, levied on the first three offenses. Any subsequent breach meant time in the “stocks”, locked up by the wrists and ankles in a wooden frame erected on the street.

The day for the celebration of the Potato Day # 1 was set for September 5, 1938. [more]

 
 
Historic Photo
The Barnesville Potato Days Festival began in 1938 by local organizers who wanted to honor the area's cash crop – the potato.
 
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Source
Barnesville Record-Review.