The Great Big Idaho Potato Truck

Published in the January 2014 Issue Published online: Jan 17, 2014 Sue Kennedy

“Is it real?” is still the No. 1 question asked by folks who see The Great Big Idaho Potato Truck.

Approaching the end of its second seven-month tour in two years, the six-ton tater is still turning heads everywhere it goes. “People love the truck,” says Kristie, one of the three Tater Team members who travel with the truck. (Team members go by first name only publicly.) “On the highway people honk their horns, wave and we’ve even had one person follow us until we stopped so they could get their picture taken with us.”

The truck was built in 2012 in celebration of the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary. It’s a “brought to life” replica (although a tad more realistic looking) of the vintage postcard featuring a giant potato on a flatbed truck. From the moment it received an official sendoff from Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter in front of the capital in Boise, it became one of the most talked-about mobile marketing vehicles on America’s highways.

“We get requests every single day from people across the country asking if the Truck can make an appearance at their event, says Foerstel Design’s Laura Marten, director of the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck. “If we’re in the area or have enough notice we do our best to accommodate every request. The coordinators of the events we’ve attended all want us back – the truck is a huge hit.”

One of the truck’s main missions is to help raise awareness and funds for Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA), the oldest and largest national organization dedicated to helping end senior hunger. The MOWAA logo is prominently displayed on the Truck along with logos of several others of the IPC’s marketing initiatives including the American Heart Association Heart-Check Mark, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the well-known “Grown in Idaho” seal.

“The tie-in with MOWAA was a very smart decision,” says Paul, the truck’s driver. “At every stop we meet at least one person who has a family member or close friend who receives meals daily from their local Meals On Wheels chapter. They want us to know how appreciative they are of the Idaho Potato Commission’s support.”

Even the local media has embraced the partnership. In 2012 more than 450 million media impressions were generated through television news programs and local newspapers; 99 percent of the coverage lauded the IPC for its support of this organization that delivers more than a million meals each day to homebound seniors.

The truck also serves as a traveling ambassador for the great state of Idaho. Nearly one-third of all potatoes grown in the United States are grown in Idaho. “This truck has enabled us to recognize an industry that has worked tirelessly to grow the finest potatoes available,” says IPC president and CEO Frank Muir. “We know that our potatoes provide nourishment to millions of folks every day of the year but many don’t realize how important the potato industry is to Idaho. Idaho potatoes generate more than $4 billion in revenue annually and employ more than 30,000 people. Agriculture and potatoes in particular are the primary reasons Idaho is among the most fiscally sound states in the nation.”

The truck is supported by a strong marketing campaign including public relations and advertising. In 2012 the truck, along with Idaho potato farmer Mark Coombs, starred in the IPC’s national television commercial that aired on popular cable stations for several months. In the spot, Coombs is looking for the truck and asks viewers who see it to tell it to “come home.” The commercial was such a success this year’s new commercial features Coombs, who is still searching for the truck, but has brought along his trusty dog to help him with his quest. You’ll have to tune in to see if they find it.

Coombs may be having a hard time finding the truck because of its busy schedule. In 2012, the truck traveled 16,500 miles, visited 38 states and over 150 cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia. While in these different cities, the truck has participated in events ranging from the grand opening of a local supermarket to NASCAR, National Football Hall of Fame or College Baseball World Series festivities. The 2013 tour is several thousand miles longer and includes new cities and return trips to areas that requested the truck again.

While on its journey, the truck has visited some of America’s oddest structures such as the Fork in the Road in Pasadena, Calif.; the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Ill.; and the World’s Largest Egg in Mentone, Ind. And, at every one of these stops the press is there to cover it. The Great Big Idaho Potato Truck has been featured on the TODAY Show, CNBC, The Weather Channel, in The Wall Street Journal and on thousands of local news programs across the country.

So if you’re still wondering whether it’s real or not, chew on these statistics…A potato the size of the Great Big Idaho Potato:

• Would take more than 10,000 years to grow.

• Weighs more than six tons (12,130 pounds), which equals 32,346 medium-sized Idaho potatoes.

• Is 1,102 times heavier than the largest potato ever grown, which weighed about 11 pounds.

• Would take two years and nine months to bake.

• Could make 30,325 servings of mashed potatoes.

• Would make more than 1.4 million average-sized fries.

However, inside sources revealed that that the potato is not real. It was built by Chris Schofield and Sharolyn Spruce, along with a few specialized contractors in Weiser, Idaho. It took them over a year to build and perfect the world’s largest potato on wheels. It’s made of steel, plywood, high-density foam and a polymerized concrete product. The Kenworth Sales Company and Western Trailer, both in Boise, Idaho, also aided with the construction.

To learn more about the truck, visit www.bigidahopotato.com and www.idahopotato.com, or follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at #bigidahopotato. 

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