Potato Festival goes back to 1940 in EC

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The Albemarle Potato Festival celebrated about 1951-1952 with a parade down Main Street in Elizabeth City.

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Barbara Putnam

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Have you ever wondered about the history of Elizabeth City’s Potato Festival? As this year’s festival winds down, there’s still a thing or two to learn about how it came to be celebrated in Elizabeth City.

The North Carolina Potato Festival is an annual tradition in Northeastern North Carolina that celebrates one of the region's most important crops – spuds! Beginning around 1940, Elizabeth City celebrated the harvest of the starchy, delectable potato crop by holding a festival at harvest time, when farmers took their yield to buyers.

From 1940 until 1970, the festival was known as the “Albemarle Potato Festival.” Pursuant to the book, “Legendary Locals of Elizabeth City”, by Marjorie Ann Berry, the Albemarle Potato Festival was first held in 1940 with a celebratory parade down Main Street, and a beauty pageant that women from the surrounding 11-county area entered, wearing their best potato sack attire — with hopes of donning the Potato Queen crown.

In the 70’s, the festival dwindled in popularity after enjoying a long run. In 2008, the festival was brought back by downtown leaders, coinciding with the N.C. General Assembly passing legislation designating the event officially as the “North Carolina Potato Festival.”

Since then, the festival has made a more than impressive comeback with the dedicated planning of festival leaders, Cindy and Tim Williams, and their planning committee, as well as a host of very much appreciated volunteers!

Each year, traditionally during the third weekend in May, Elizabeth City celebrates the North Carolina Potato Festival. Since its revitalization, the festival has resoundingly returned to historical distinction as one of the largest regional attractions in our area. The NC Potato Festival is a fun-filled, family-oriented, three-day festival that celebrates the potato — one of Northeastern North Carolina's largest crops.

This year’s festival was chock full of food, vendors, contests, including a Potato Peeling Contest, a Little Miss Tater Tot Contest, and Cornhole Tournament, and has been accentuated in the past few years by a live U.S. Coast Guard rescue and recovery demonstration on the Pasquotank River, and by auto and motorcycle shows!

Every year during the festival, nationally up-and-coming live musical entertainment acts entertain on the main stage, and families can enjoy a fun-filled midway full of games and festival rides, as well as streets lined with vendors of every imaginable ware and lip-smacking food to sample!

Join us today, the last day of the festival, for this yearly tradition in our beautiful Downtown Historic Elizabeth City. Enjoy today’s entertainment and finish the weekend bringing home family memories to last until next year’s NC Potato Festival!!

Barbara Putnam is Operation’s Manager at Museum of the Albemarle.