He’s big…he’s brown…he’s round and makes more people smile than anyone I’ve ever met. You might know a few people who match this description but I’m referring to the famous Idaho potato mascot, Spuddy Buddy.
Spuddy Buddy was born about 15 years ago and made his national debut in 1996 at the TODAY Show window in Rockefeller Center in New York City. Weatherman Al Roker tried to interview him, but since Spuddy Buddy doesn’t speak, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) chairman at that time, Don Dixon, introduced Spuddy Buddy to America.
Since then, Spuddy Buddy has grown to become the beloved personality of the IPC. His warm and friendly look and energetic personality have won the hearts of millions around the world and, most importantly, has helped promote the famous Idaho potato.
Recently he stole the show at the first annual New Year’s Eve Potato Drop in downtown Boise. Dancing in front of thousands, he energized the crowd for the much-anticipated countdown. This sweet mascot has chest-bumped some of the fiercest mascots in college football at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and has even worn a red dress to support the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign against heart disease.
When the Special Olympics hosted the World Winter Games in Boise several years ago, Spuddy Buddy donned a blue shirt with the Special Olympics logo in support of the athletes. He’s a permanent fixture at the Idaho Cares Day annual celebration in Boise, greets underprivileged kids who participate in United Airlines’ Holiday Fantasy Flight program and has participated in several Meals On Wheels events during the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck tour.
While nothing beats the “live” Spuddy Buddy, the plush line that we created has been hugely successful and far exceeded any of our expectations. U.S. mgistrate judge Larry Boyle loads his suitcase with Spuddy Buddies every time he travels. “I learned receiving a Spuddy Buddy is a treat for these men and women, who are parents and grandparents,” Boyle said. “One high-ranking judicial officer in Azerbaijan was so moved by my giving him two of the dolls—one for each of his daughters—the next day he insisted that I accept a small vase that was a family heirloom.”
College football sideline reporter Heather Cox partnered with the IPC in the fall and took photos of Spuddy Buddy at iconic college football locations and introduced him to a few other mascots as well
But what’s most interesting about Spuddy Buddy, the costume or the plush, is his universal appeal. Meredith Vieira, the former TODAY Show anchor, appeared with a little Spuddy Buddy on her shoulder while reporting the morning news and USA Today ran an outstanding photo of a San Diego State University football player holding the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl trophy with his arm around Spuddy Buddy. And we can’t forget the pets who covet their Spuddy Buddies more than any other toy.
I could list a thousand other appearances Spuddy Buddy has made over the years, and each is heartwarming and sometimes humorous. He’s become an icon for the Idaho potato brand and one that we’re very, very proud of.