I’m sure a lot of you have never heard of Tater Day, right? Well, stick around and I’ll tell you how we celebrated Tater Day.
Just in case you don’t know, “Tater” is a nickname for potato. Tater Day is held in Benton, Kentucky and is the only celebration in the world to celebrate the sweet potato. It was started in 1843 as a celebration of spring and was a time when all of the townsfolk would get together and trade in sweet potato slips which are used to grow the plants. It is also the oldest continuous trade day in the United States, in which goods such as guns, ‘coon hounds, tobacco or livestock are swapped or sold. Tater Day brings to town carnival rides, games, a market, a potato eating contest, mule pulls, and a “biggest potato” contest, which attracts large potatoes from across the county. The biggest part of the festival is the parade, which completes one circuit around the town. It includes political floats, Marshall County High School marching band, horses and buggies, clowns, vintage cars, horses, Miss Tater Day, and other things for which Marshall County is known. There is also Junior Miss Tater Day for little girls ages 5 to 12, and Little Mister, Tiny Miss, and Baby Miss Tater day pageants and floats for the younger kids. And no parade is complete without a Grand Marshall.
From the time I can remember, Mom, Mawdie, Cheryl and I attended the Tater Day festivities. In the beginning, we kids skipped school to go to Tater Day. All the teachers knew that any kid enrolled in a Marshall County school was going to be absent that day to go to Tater Day; but since Tater Day fell on a school day, the schools were expected to be in session. It finally became such a problem for the school system that they decided to make the first Monday in April a school holiday. Do you know how much that deflated all of us who delighted in skipping school for just one day?
We first went to Aunt Annie’s (Mawdie’s sister) house in Benton and then walked to the end of her street to watch the parade. After the parade, I would meet up with some of my friends and we would go to the fairgrounds to ride some of the carnival rides that were set up. When it was time to eat lunch, I would make my way back to Aunt Annie’s house because you didn’t want to miss out on the best cooking in the world. Aunt Annie and Mawdie would cook all morning – we would have chicken/dumplings, sauerkraut, stewed potatoes, green beans, corn, cornbread and fresh homemade pies.
At the end of the day, we went home with all kinds of good leftovers and sunburned bodies and making plans for the next Tater Day adventure.
See ya next Wednesday.