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Children really dig Spud Fest

August 27, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Ask some area children what they know about potatoes, and their responses might include a reference to the sticky mashed variety on a school lunch tray or a nod to a Mr. Potato Head assembly toy.

In contrast, Friends of the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum would like children to have a familiarity with local roots, as well as a solid understanding of history and agriculture.

That's why the group hosted its fourth Spud Fest on Saturday on the grounds of the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

At 10 a.m., two black, strapping Percheron draft horses began parading through a quarter-acre potato patch, hauling a plow behind them. A fluttering crowd of children followed closely behind, racing to harvest potatoes in a brown, billowing cloud of dirt.

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Admission to the event was free, and more than 150 people attended.

"A lot of children don't realize when they go to the grocery store where potatoes even come from," said Marge Peters, co-chairwoman of special events for the Rural Heritage Museum. "People from the community like to bring their children to experience something different."

Peters, 73, of Hagerstown, said the event was designed as a fun way to show children how potatoes were planted and harvested 100 years ago. She said children assisted in planting nearly 100 pounds of seed potatoes - potatoes that have "eyes" - last April.

Dalene Middlekauff, 33, of Hancock, peered through the swelling dust as her daughter, Hailee Middlekauff, 4, dug and shrieked with excitement.

"Mommy, I found another potato!" Hailee said. "I'm finding them everywhere."

Sue Morganthal, 43, of Zullinger, Pa., took her 9-year-old twin daughters, Isabella and MacKenzie, to Spud Fest. While the girls said following the horses and plow and trying to find potatoes was a lot of fun, Sue Morganthal said she home-schools her children and likes the event for its educational value.

Steve Funkhouser, 36, of McGaheysville, Va., said he and his family traveled a couple of hours for the second year in a row to attend Spud Fest, along with the antique tractor pull that also was taking place on the Ag Center grounds.

"The kids take part in the potato dig and the games and festivities, and the facility and the grounds are just beautiful," Funkhouser said.

Nancy Hill of Clear Spring said she usually plants potatoes and lets her granddaughters, Madison and Danielle Hill, 2 and 8, also of Clear Spring, tend and harvest them.

"We built a house this year, so I didn't get to plant potatoes," Nancy Hill said. "It's one of the girls' favorite things to do, so I brought them down here."

Danielle said she liked making chips out of the potatoes, while Madison's favorite part of the event was seeing the horses pull the plow and harrow.

Following the potato harvest, Peters awarded prizes for special potatoes. Attendees then headed across the field for some fresh, kettle-cooked potato chips, potato candy, homemade ice cream and lemonade. Children got their faces painted and learned how to make potato stamps.




The winners



The following people received awards Saturday during Spud Fest at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center:

· Oddest potato: Cassie Wollard, 12, Hagerstown

· Smallest potato: Taylor Pheabus, 9, Falling Waters, W.Va.

· n Biggest potato: Isabelle Morganthal, 9, Zullinger, Pa.

· Youngest potato harvester: Madison Hill, 2, Clear Spring

· Oldest potato harvester: Megan Gossard, 12, Hagerstown

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