BOISE — The publicity created by the annual New Year’s Eve potato drop in downtown Boise continues to increase and so does the Idaho Potato Commission’s sponsorship of the event.
The commission provided the event, now in its fifth year, with $5,000 during its inaugural year, then increased that amount to $25,000 after it received a large amount of exposure.
Now, as the hoopla surrounding the event continues to grow, the IPC is providing it $50,000 a year.
Every time the potato drops, the visibility of Idaho’s most famous farm commodity goes up, said IPC President and CEO Frank Muir.
“Every time we drop that potato, we get national and international coverage,” he said. “It’s getting more and more legs.”
The event is similar to the New York City New Year’s Eve ball drop except that in Idaho, a giant potato is lowered to the ground to count in the new year.
The event draws around 35,000 Idahoans to downtown Boise but that’s small potatoes compared with the attention the potato drop gets around the globe.
The event has garnered major media attention nationally and internationally, said Idaho Potato Drop founder Dylan Cline. He estimates the number of media impressions the event creates at 3.75 billion, or half the world’s population.
Media impressions are a broad measurement the includes the audience size of media outlet.
“I had no idea it was going to be such a phenomenon around the world,” Cline said. “It just keeps growing and getting bigger and drawing more attention around the world.”
Cline, a native Idahoan, said the purpose of the event is simple: to celebrate what the state is most famous for.
“Idaho’s potato industry is a money maker for the state and people should get behind it and support it for making the state what it is today,” he said. “I think it’s something we should be proud of.”
Randy Hardy, an Oakley grower and IPC board member, said the potato drop, along with the commission’s annual sponsorship of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, has revived support for the potato in Boise, by far the state’s main population center.
Over the last decade, the peregrine falcon was chosen by then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne over the potato to appear on the Idaho state quarter, and there was a failed attempt to get rid of the words “Famous Potatoes” on the state’s license plates, Hardy said.
The potato drop has helped shine the spotlight on the spud again in Boise, he said.
“It has become a pretty big deal,” Hardy said. “It ... has the Boise valley pretty excited about Idaho potatoes. Idaho is known more for potatoes than any state is known for anything else. I think it’s important for people in Boise to recognize that the potato is really what put Idaho on the map.”