Freshly fried Tater Tots from Mal's Diner in Vale. (The Enterprise/File)

UPDATE: Organizers say the event starts Friday at 4 p.m.

ONTARIO – Nearly 70 years after the invention of the Tater Tot and a year later than expected, the first Tater Tot Festival has arrived.

The festival is on Friday, Sept. 17 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and hosted by Revitalize Ontario and other sponsors. The festival will be in Downtown Historic Ontario, on S Oregon St. and SW 2nd Ave.

Charlotte Fugate, president of Revitalize Ontario, said to expect “lots of fun.”

The side dish proved its versatility in July during the Tater Tot Cooking Competition at the Malheur County Fair, which chose six finalists to present during the festival.

The finalists’ dishes are “totchos,” jalapeño popper tot casserole, twice-baked tot cups, breakfast tot biscuits, steak bomb tot waffles and ranch tots. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is buy a tray of the samples of the competition food,” Fugate said. 

Those attending have the option to sample all the dishes for $5 and then vote for the winner. That event will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

The festival’s other big event will be the eating contest at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, and each contestant will get a big bowl of warm Tater Tots. The winner will be chosen by weighing the bowls before and after the competition.

Registration for the eating contest will be at the Revitalize Ontario Booth at the festival.

“We have an EMT that will be standing by in case anyone chokes,” Fugate laughed, but also said that she had considered the safest level of crispiness for high-speed tot consumption.

For those hoping to savor their meal, local food vendors will be selling a variety of foods, including tot creations.

There will also be live music on Oregon Street both days, including from Brett Reid, The RJ McGinnis Band and Gerry and the Dreambenders.

The Tater Tot was invented in Ontario by brothers Nephi and Golden Grigg, who founded Ore-Ida in 1952. They continue to be made in Ontario as part of The Kraft Heinz Company.

Event organizers are asking attendees to wear a mask, following statewide outdoor masking requirements implemented during the ongoing Covid surge.

“Tater Tots are for the young and for the old. All of us love Tater Tots,” Fugate said. “The community deserves a fun day.”

CORRECTION: The Tater Tot Festival starts at 4 p.m. Friday. Organizers provided an early, incorrect time.

2021 Tater Tot Festival schedule. (Courtesy of Revitalize Ontario/ Charlotte Fugate).

News tip? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]

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