Potato Festival to offer three days of rides, tunes, food, fun

Potato Fest Sat
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Jakael Brooks enjoys cheese fries during last year's N.C. Potato Festival in Elizabeth City. Organizers released details last week of this year's festival, which will be held May 17-19.

Potato Festival Flyer

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, April 22, 2019

The North Carolina Potato Festival — downtown Elizabeth City's signature event — is less than a month away, and it's poised to once again offer a jam-packed weekend of family fun.

The three-day festival is set for May 17-19, and it's coming together well, Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. Executive Director Deborah Malenfant reported last week. ECDI organizes the event, with the help of dozens of sponsors and hundreds of volunteers.

All the draws from prior years are returning: live music, rides by Deggeller Attractions, diverse vendors, everyone's favorite street foods — including free French fries on Saturday — and more. The Little Miss Tater Tot Contest is also returning; it’s set for Saturday, May 18, Malenfant reported.

This year's festival will also offer even more for kids than last year, Malenfant said. More kids' activities and games will be offered, specifically at Mariners' Wharf Park.

Malenfant also reported this year's theme is “Eat, Shop, and Play Downtown,” which seeks to underscore the importance, and continued growth, of the city's downtown.

The festival will be open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on its first night, Friday, May 17. On Saturday, May 18, the hours will be 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Then on Sunday, hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Malenfant further detailed the schedule and highlights of this year’s Potato Festival:

* Set-up and street closures will start on Tuesday, May 14. The main closures include: Water Street between Shepard and Ehringhaus streets on Tuesday, followed by Ehringhaus between McMorrine and Water on Thursday, and Water Street between Fearing and Elizabeth streets at 1 p.m. Friday for stage set-up.

* The festival's opening ceremonies will be at 5:30 p.m. that Friday, including a welcome from city and Pasquotank County officials, with a performance by the Albemarle Youth Choir and music by DJ Taz 2 Productions. A U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard will also be present. A VIP party will start at 6 p.m.

* Musical acts on Friday night will include the Hope Griffin Duo, James Ethan Clark and the Renegades, Byrum, and Erin Rae.

* Saturday will be a full day of events, including the serving of free French fries at the intersection of Main and Poindexter streets; the National Potato Peeling Contest, which features a top prize of a $500 donation to a nonprofit of the winning team's choice; the Little Miss Tater Tot Contest; a “blocks-long” Auto and Bike Show on Main Street, and a street dance that night.

* A cornhole tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday in the Mariners' Wharf parking lot, starting at 1 p.m. both days.

* Beer and wine gardens will return, with the first in the 100 block of Water Street, and the second in tandem with the cornhole tournament.

* Among others, musical acts on Saturday will include: Lovely World, Entangled Dreams, PBNJ, Connected, Bobby Plough, Mojo Collins, The Buskits, and the Tidewater Drive Band.

* Activities and music will continue on Sunday, with some performers including King Street, Sweet Sweet, Five Star, and Delta Son.

Malenfant said this year's festival is in good financial shape thanks to strong sponsorship that's running slightly above last year. The festival has 47 sponsors who've contributed more than $63,000 so far, helping cover most of the festival’s expected $80,000 to $85,000 cost, she said.

Some sponsors she noted include: Bojangles, Avangrid Renewables, Walmart, Nissan of Elizabeth City, TowneBank Mortgage, Biggs Cadillac, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, Southern Bank, Hall Auto, The Mills Downtown Bistro, Heritage Care, Bud Light, Weatherly Lofts, and Tyson Foods Local Grain Services.

The festival also depends on roughly 300 volunteers each year — it can never have too many — and Malenfant encouraged people to call ECDI, at 338-4104, to volunteer.

Malenfant also encouraged the public to go to www.ncpotatofestival.com for more information, and updates, as the festival approaches.