Ore-Ida representatives frying promotional tater tots for eager fairgoers. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)

VALE – Revitalize Ontario had a Tater Tot booth at the Malheur County Fair to promote the upcoming 2020 Tater Tot Festival, and they just couldn’t keep up with demand. 

Each day, fairgoers could swing by, mingle and grab a few free Tater Tots, as well as fill out a survey about what kinds of things they hope to see at next year’s festival.

The festival will honor the Grigg Brothers, Nephi and Golden, the founders of the frozen food processing company Ore-Ida and the inventors of the Tater Tot.

Kraft Heinz is spearheading the marketing for the festival.  

Popping open a cooler full of the iconic fried potato snacks, Marty Justus, co-chair of Revitalize Ontario, said that Kraft Heinz supplied more Tater Tots than people could eat. Justus then dropped a basket of Tots into the fryer, as people gathered around the booth. 

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Brandy Barker said she’s into Tater Tots because “it’s a potato, and who doesn’t like potatoes.” 

“I’m down,” Barker added when asked if she was planning to go to the Tater Tot Festival coming October 2020. “Sounds good to me.”

Charlotte Fugate, president of Revitalize Ontario, said that they gave away 2,152 raffle tickets for free T-shirts at the fair.

Kraft Heinz paid for the T-shirts, Tater Tots and the oil used to cook them, and 1,000 shirts were given away and 932 surveys collected.

Fugate added that there were a few people who came to the booth claiming to be the one to have named the Tater Tot, but she expressed incredulity. 

“Some of them were, all of them couldn’t have been,” she said with a grin. 

A couple weeks ago, the Enterprise posted an article about the upcoming Tater Tot Festival, and readers had fun suggesting activities on Facebook. 

Ideas from readers included a Tater Tot Trot, a Tater Tot Toss, potato sack races, cooking contest recipes with Tater Tots, cutest tiny tot contest, a Tater Tot eating contest and art displays made from Tater Tots.

Other suggestions included a Tater Tot dash, which involves putting a Tater Tot on a spoon and racing, a Tater Tot sculpture contest, a Tater Tot swat, which involves hitting frozen Tots with rolled up newspapers for distance, Tater Tot hoops, which involves seeing how many Tots someone can catch in their mouth, and inventive Tater Tot cooking. 

Fugate laughed, but was concerned at the prospect of catching Tater Tots in one’s mouth as an activity at the festival. Fugate inquired if the Tater Tots would be frozen or thawed, and said that she was worried about the possibility of people breaking their teeth. 

However, Fugate indicated that the potato sack race would probably happen.  

On the Revitalize Ontario survey, fairgoers were asked to check the four top things they’d like to see at the festival. Some of the possible activities include, Tater Tot art work, a Tater Tot cooking competition, a Tater Tot costume contest, a Tater Tot eating contest, a carnival boardwalk, a 5K race, live music and face painting among others. 

To take the survey online, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/C8HRDXR.

Reporter Joe Siess: joesiess.malheurenterprise@gmail.com or 541-473-3377.

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