[Heritage] Klamath Basin Potato Festival is newest Oregon Heritage Tradition

INFO Heritage * OPRD Heritage.Info at oregon.gov
Thu Oct 16 08:44:22 PDT 2014

A 77-year-old festival that brings together several communities to celebrate the importance of the potato is the newest Oregon Heritage Tradition designated by the Oregon Heritage Commission.

The Klamath Basin Potato Festival is the 11th event designated an Oregon Heritage Tradition.  The others include the Oregon State Fair, the Pendleton Round-Up, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest and the Linn County Pioneer Picnic.

The festival takes place this Friday and Saturday in Merrill, a town of 900 people. Thousands of people are expected to attend.

"The Heritage Commission wants to recognize those traditions that have helped define the state," said David Lewis, the commission's chair and historian for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. "They are distinguished events that are part of our heritage as Oregonians."

"The involvement from different communities sets the Potato Festival apart," said this year's festival director Greg Matthews, noting the participation of Bonanza, Chiloquin, Klamath Falls, Malin, Merrill and Tulelake, Calif. "To have these communities come together for a weekend of celebration is awe-inspiring.  The Oregon Heritage Tradition designation honors every one who has helped with or participated in the Potato Festival."
The first Klamath Basin Potato Festival took place in 1937 to celebrate the completion of the annual potato harvest. It has taken place annually, although during World War II the Merrill Service Club down-sized it to only a late harvest dance with proceeds to charity.

This year's festival will include a parade, football games, a barbecue, musical performances, bed races, and exhibits. Among the exhibits are the biggest, the best-looking and the oddest potatoes.

An Oregon Heritage Tradition must have been in continuous operation for more than 50 years, demonstrate a public profile and reputation that distinguishes it from more routine events, and add to the livability and identity of the state, said commission coordinator Kyle Jansson.

The Oregon Heritage Commission coordinates efforts to solve statewide heritage issues through grants, education, and advocacy, and also promotes heritage tourism efforts.

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