Idaho Potato Museum.
Goliath spud, sour cream, and butter beckon travelers to the museum.

Idaho Potato Museum

Field review by the editors.

Blackfoot, Idaho

"We've been down here for several months now, and I've grown quite fond of this place," says a video-projected humanoid Dad potato in a simulated root cellar. Mom potato, sitting next to Dad and their tater tot, bursts into song, to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance:

Top-O-Stove Potato Baker.
Oven-free cookery with the Top-O-Stove Potato Baker.

Sometimes we ditch the skin, to eat what it's holding in.
Sometimes we'd rather, please, have just the outside with cheese.
Oh, po-ta-to po-ta-to po-ta-to....

The constantly repeating Potato Family song -- you'll never forget it -- echoes everywhere in the Idaho Potato Museum, which has been spreading its message of potato preeminence since 1988. Images of a potato wearing a crown (we've dubbed him King Spud) can be found throughout the museum, and on a sign at the outskirts of town. Blackfoot, "World Potato Capital," is in a tater-rich region that grows more spuds than anywhere else on the planet. According to museum director Tish Dahmen, an average acre of farmland here yields 11 tons of potatoes.

Burlap tuxedo worn by Idaho's first Potato Commissioner.
Rodeo queen vest and men's tuxedo, made from burlap potato sacks.

A giant sculpted potato sits outside the museum, topped with fake sour cream and butter, looking like something that fell off a truck on a novelty postcard (You can see that potato elsewhere in Idaho). The titan tuber replaced an earlier model that was stolen by local high school kids in 2006. "It broke when they moved it," said Tish. The current potato, given a fresh coat of paint in 2020, has a custom-built smartphone holder for timed spud-selfies.

Inside, the museum has impressive collections of potato mashers, peelers, and vintage cooking contraptions such as the Tater Baker and Spud Spikes. One exhibit, with a diminutive Nazca Potato God amulet and a chakitajlla foot-plow ("The most advanced agricultural tool known in the Andes"), stresses that potatoes came from South America, not Ireland, a common visitor misperception according to Tish.

A large wall-size display, "How the Potato Changed the World," notes with pride that potatoes have spawned not only French fries and potato chips, but also television (inventor Philo Farnsworth got the idea for TV while plowing a potato field). Under a headline, "The Future," it asserts that, "Many professionals believe growing potatoes on Mars is possible."

In the cellar: Animated potato royal family.
In the cellar: Animated potato royal family.

Potatoe signed by Dan Quayle.
"Potatoe" signed by former VP Dan Quayle.

One of the museum's star relics, the World's Largest Pringle, was created on June 3, 1991, by a team of Proctor and Gamble engineers. This pizza-sized potato snack has its own display case, a Guinness World Record certificate, and is the equivalent of 80 normal potato chips. After over 30 years of display, it's beginning to crack.

Nearly as old, and enshrined next to a jar of fermented potato beer, is a shriveled potato signed by former U.S Vice-President Dan Quayle, who has his own museum and who embarrassingly insisted at a spelling bee that "potato" had an "e" in it. Quayle autographed the spud afterward as a form of atonement. "He was a good sport," said Tish.

In a showcase hangs a burlap rodeo queen outfit -- vest and skirt -- made of potato sacks, and the burlap tuxedo worn by Idaho's first Potato Commissioner ("They did a beautiful job," said Tish of the tuxedo). Visitors to the museum can even pose with a life-size cardboard cutout of 1950s Marilyn Monroe wearing a potato sack dress. In the past, visitors could get their own outfits made of burlap sacks, but no more; Tish said that farmers stopped using them in 2014. The museum's potato sack sewing machine is now a retired relic.

Nazca Potato God.
Potato fandom goes back many centuries.

One display case holds a rare, hollow potato from the bad growing season of 1993, and an even rarer "potato inside a potato" found in a field in 1997. Tish said that visitors sometimes try to sell their potato freaks to the museum -- she politely declines the offers -- but added that she would someday like to create a Potato Hall of Fame.

The "Potato VR" exhibit, sponsored by a farm equipment company named Spudnik, puts visitors in a tractor cab during a potato harvest. "A lot of people would love to get out of their car, walk into a potato field, and pick their own," said Tish. "So at least now they know what it looks like." Idaho farmers prefer virtual visits to actual visitors, said Tish, because they don't want their crops contaminated -- and also, as we learned elsewhere in the museum, because the tomato-like fruits that grow from potato plants are poisonous.

The museum's gift shop sells Idaho Potato Field Force comics (portraying Idaho potato salespeople as superheroes), as well as Christmas ornaments of the big outdoor potato, "When Potatoes Go Bad" motorcycle vest patches, and replicas of the Potato God. The Potato Station Cafe has a "Taters for Out-of-Staters" program that gives free potato-product samples to every visitor, and sells only potato-based products, such as potato ice cream and cupcakes. Even the cafe's chocolate milk has potato in it.

Industry Heroes: Idaho Potato Field Force.
Industry heroes: the Idaho Potato Field Force.

"Potatoes are fun," said Tish. "Have you ever been in a bad mood eating a french fry? Or a potato chip? Never!"

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Also see: Spud Drive-In Giant Potato | Big Idaho Potato Hotel

Idaho Potato Museum

Idaho Potato Museum

Address:
130 NW Main St., Blackfoot, ID
Directions:
I-15 exit 93. Drive east into downtown for one mile. Turn left at the stoplight onto US-91/NW Main St. Drive two blocks. The museum will be on the right; look for the big potato.
Hours:
Summer daily 9:30-7; fewer hours and days off-season, (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
208-785-2517
Admission:
Adults $6.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Mural: Superman, Marilyn, ReaganMural: Superman, Marilyn, Reagan, Blackfoot, ID - < 1 mi.
Funeral Home in a Civic AuditoriumFuneral Home in a Civic Auditorium, Blackfoot, ID - < 1 mi.
Uniroyal GalUniroyal Gal, Blackfoot, ID - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Ghost Town of Chesterfield, Chesterfield, ID - 32 mi.

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