Idaho potato truck starts third tour
By John O’Connell
BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Potato Commission’s Great Big Idaho Potato Truck departed April 16 on its third U.S. tour, scheduled to cover 19,000 miles throughout 26 states over five months.
In preparation for the occasion, IPC refinished the 6-ton replica Russet Burbank, hauled on a flat-bed truck. The truck has also been updated with the image of IPC mascot Spuddy Buddy divulging potato nutritional facts and the logo of a new philanthropic partner — the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women program.
“The recognition and feedback we get from consumers and different companies that use Idaho potatoes is so phenomenal that we had no choice but to send it back out again by popular demand,” said Boyd Foster, an IPC board member who farms in Rigby. “Right now, the return on investment is great.”
IPC will make a $150,000 donation to Go Red for Women, which seeks to raise awareness among women about the risks of heart disease. The program, started in 2004, promotes and raises funds for women’s heart health through fashion shows, heart health checks and sports events, often featuring participants in red dresses, which symbolize the cause.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said the charity is a good fit with the truck tour because Idaho potatoes have been recognized with an AHA heart health checkmark since 2011. Muir explained potatoes have twice the potassium of bananas and can help control high blood pressure. He said heart disease claims the lives of one in three U.S. women.
IPC also plans to make stops during its tour at senior citizens centers to promote its former potato truck charitable partner, Meals on Wheels.
Muir said IPC has budgeted about $700,000 for the tour, slightly less than it invested in the truck last year. Students at Riverside Elementary in Boise hosted the official sendoff for the truck outside their school. Muir said ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox, whose children attend the school, made a video of the event. Cox has an agreement with IPC to promote Idaho spuds while traveling to cover college football.
Tater Team members who will staff the truck include Kristie Wolfe, Ivan Nanney and driver Larry Bathe.
After leaving the school, the truck made its first stop by the commissary at Mountain Home Air Force Base. The truck’s first high-profile appearance will be at the Kentucky Derby in early May, where it will roll in the annual Pegasus Parade. Other scheduled stops of note include the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wis., and the Art Car Parade and Festival in Houston.
In September, Muir said IPC will air a new commercial featuring the truck. Muir said his organization is committed to having at least two more tours after this year.