When we sat down at the beginning of the summer to compile our bucket list of summer activities
Ozzie had only one request,
“Please, oh please, can we go to the New Galilee Potato Festival?”
We knew nothing about it. We had never attended before. Ozzie’s only exposure to it was reading the signs advertising it
as we drove through town last August.
But he desperately wanted to go.
“I love potatoes!” he explained when I asked why he wanted to go.
I really had no desire to take the family to the New Galilee Potato Festival but since Ozzie rarely asks for anything with such heartfelt pleas I told him we would try.
This week was the festival.
As we looked at the calendar we realized that the only free evening we had was opening night. So on Tuesday night, following football practice, we all went down to the potato festival.
“Why a potato festival in New Galilee?” you ask…
Well I wondered the same thing until a friend shared this background information that was published in Ellwood City’s newspaper:
“New Galilee’s potato festival still has skin in the game.
This year, though, it will share billing with the much-welcomed return of the fireman’s fair.
Launched in 2012, the potato festival celebrates the region’s agrarian roots, especially its ties to the John Gilkey family. Gilkey, an Irish immigrant, came to the area in 1797.
He planted three varieties of potatoes — blue, red and white, according to explorepahistory.com — that within a few years cross-pollinated to form a new variety he named Neshannock, described as a “large and long potato, reddish purple in color, with streaks of the same color through the flesh that generally disappeared after the potato was cooked.”
By the 19th century, it became the standard commercial potato “prized for its size, wonderful flavor and ability to keep,” the website says. But it “gradually fell out of favor” after more productive varieties were introduced.
Locals, though, still think Gilkey’s potato is worth celebrating. And so they will by combining the fireman’s fair, a popular tradition of the past, with a new one — one that has “true meaning and to honor our roots,” said Mark Benes, festival planner, on the event’s website.”
On our way to the fair Ozzie was shaking with anticipation. He had his allowance scrunched in his hands and he shared his plans for his allowance with us…
“I have been saving up my money for this,” he told us with enthusiasm, “all summer!”
“I am gonna buy me a five-pound sack of po-ta-toes!”
When we arrived we discovered the presence of this majestic root vegetable to be minimal…very minimal!
Ozzie was crushed to discover they weren’t selling bags of potatoes and Grace was saddened to find out the only potato dish being sold was carnival fries.
Despite the disappointment over the lack of potatoes the kids still had a fun time.
It was late so all the carnival rides were lit up making the ambiance magical.
Toby bought enough ride tickets to allow each child to ride three rides, but because we were one of a small number of families there the kids were told time and time again that they could stay on their rides and ride again for free.
I think the carnival workers were bored and so they generously allowed the kids to ride a lot more rides than they actually had tickets for. It was a fun night and we ended up having the place to ourselves by the end of the night.
The kids especially enjoyed the ferris wheel which allowed them to look down over the fair and the surrounding farms.
We ended the evening with French fries, of course! Toby bought four orders of fresh-cut fries so we could commemorate the beloved potato…
( at least a little bit.)
It was a crazy experience but Ozzie wasn’t disappointed in the least. As we walked back to the car he was bouncing with excitement. He grabbed me with a bear hug and said:
“Thank you! This was the best potato festival I have ever been to!”
Yep, best potato festival ever.