Celebrating Midwest culture at Potato Days

BARNESVILLE, Minn. (KVRR) — It’s a festival unlike any other featuring rodeos, pageant shows and lefse contests with a taste of history, too.

“What didn’t we do? We were in the jail. We rode on the wagon ride with the horses. We ate a lot of potatoes. Oh yeah. Saw a lot of the shows. We saw the cooking contest. Went and saw the lefsa contest. It’s a good time. We got a lot of souvenirs. And the rodeo last night. So, it was a busy day,” says Lisa and Ed Walker, from St. Petersburg FL.

There was much to see at Potato Days this weekend in Barnesville where thousands gathered to celebrate small town culture.

Locals say the festival’s tradition goes back nearly a century.

“Back in the 30s and 40s, the whole bunch of farmers got together and try a little Potato Days out and all day it worked real nice. They come here every year. So important, that’s how it got started. It got a little bigger and bigger,” says Barnesville native Dan Cihak

Even those who share blood with the city’s founder had much to learn.

“My mom is the great grandniece of the founder of Barnesville, George Samuel Barnes, I’m the great-great niece. My name is Susie Barnes Shaft. This is your first time at Potato Days? I hate to say it, but it is. We’ve always said we were going to do it. I live in the Twin Cities; she lives in Grand Forks. We always said we’d meet here and finally we did,” said Susie Barnes Shaft and Weezie Urban.

Some came to get a taste of Midwest culture from nearly two thousand miles away.

They never thought they’d end up in a Minnesota town of under three thousand.

“Approx. 15 years ago I was on a business trip to meet a client in Fargo. The company flew me into Minneapolis. So, I had to make the long drive and, of course, you stop at a rest area, all those brochures were there. So, I picked up a few but the Potato Days one was what stuck out for me. When I got back to Florida, I decided to get on their mailing list. Every year, I’m getting these brochures, telling her that one of these days we’re going to get there. A couple years ago, we were going to come here but I got COVID. Couldn’t go, so we decided this year was going to be the year,” said Ed Walker.

“We love small town festivals. We love small towns and it’s great. Everybody knows everybody. Once somebody reads our shirts and hears the story, they grab another person, say, ‘you’re not going to believe this’. A guy yesterday told us about his farmland that used to be next to the George Barnes farmland. So it’s fun. People enjoy hearing it. They like to hear a connection and we’re happy to provide it. No matter where you go, there’s connections you find. Everything about it is exciting. Just love it and love to meet all the new people and it’s just great. We have to come back,” said Weezie Urban and Susie Barnes Shaft.

The festival also had potato-themed contests from picking, peeling, potato car races and a golden potato scavenger hunt.

Categories: Community, Minnesota News