Portage la Prairie, MB –
Potatoes are sexy and they know it, and it seems everyone wants in on the action.
For years, Portage la Prairie has been the home of the Potato Festival but neighbouring communities are mounting a legal challenge to change that.
The battle for the tuber has never been greater as Winkler, Carman and Carberry have filed a class-action lawsuit against Portage la Prairie over the right to hold a celebration of the potato.
Their claim is centred around their demands the potato be honoured more fully and completely.
“Portage has two big fry factories, they’re a big player but the potato is bigger than that,” legal challenger Steve Penner of Carman said. “But places like Carman, Winkler and certainly Carberry are huge players in the potato industry. We should have a say and we think much more needs to be done for the potato.”
Normally Portage keeps the Potato Festival low key with free fries, some bouncy castles, slow-pitch tournament, local entertainers and a Canadian country music headliner to round out the event. This approach has caused rivals to try and muscle in on the potato title.
“Potatoes are the sexiest vegetables ever,” Penner said. “You can do anything with them, not just fry them.”
Penner and the group behind the lawsuit claim they would better represent the potato by offering baked, mashed, and over roasted samples free of charge. Their plans would also include a hash brown eating contest, a potato king and queen pageant, an interactive kids potato dig, funniest looking potato contest, potato head decorating competition and soup making classes.
“We love potatoes so much and we want to show the world what they have to offer,” Penner explained. “No other vegetable can do so much and we just want to give something back to honour it.”
The courts will not be able to hear the case until later this year so the current Portage Potato Festival will be unaffected but future ones could be in jeopardy.
“Even if we aren’t successful in getting the rights to the Potato Festival we will look at doing something under a different name,” Penner said.
Rumoured alternative names include Potato Party, Potato Extravaganza, Potato Palooza, and Potato Mania.
Portage organizers aren’t worried about competition for the love of the potato.
“We know everybody loves the potato but there will only be one true home for the Potato Festival, and that is Portage la Prairie,” organizer James Thompson said.
“While they worry about taking us to court we just might test some of their ideas along with adding a few twists of our own,” Thompson said.
This year’s festival goes Friday evening and Saturday and will be monitored closely by visitors from Winkler, Carberry and Carman to make sure the potato is celebrated properly.
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