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Pages of the Past: Looking back on Potato Day’s roots

Locations: News Published

From the archives of the Roaring Fork Valley Journal
(Available for public perusal at the Carbondale Branch Library)

Oct. 6, 1977

The Journal took the town’s oldest festival opportunity to share a bit of potato history. According to Martha Witchey, then viewed as the preeminent authority on the subject, Eugene Grubbs was testing potato varieties in the Carbondale area back in the 1880s before he was appointed to the State Board of Agriculture and wrote the definitive work on the subject. His work inspired area farmers, and Potato Day got its start in 1909 as much for buying and trading as for entertainment. Production peaked in the early ‘30s, with thousands of tons of spuds were exported from the area every fall, then declined as farmer’s switched to easier crops. Other than a two year hiatus during World War I, the event took place annually with little formal organization until the Chamber of Commerce took over in 1947. Core events included a barbeque, rodeo, dance and a wide array of lawn games. (These days, the event is put on by the Xi Gamma Tau chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority and timed to coincide with Homecoming — which helps make for the biggest parade of the year. Some events have gone by the wayside and there aren’t always local potatoes for sale, but the tradition continues.

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Oct. 8, 1987

An apparently new venture, Roaring Fork Railroad was planning to operate four renovated cars between Denver and Salt Lake City for the winter, with a stop in Glenwood Springs and transfer service up to Aspen. The Silver Queen and its richly decorated Vista Dome cars were slated to travel  behind Amtrak’s California Zephyr, with fares ranging from $29 to $280 depending on destination and services. “…There will be no prettier train ride or more luxurious railcars in public operation in the country,” said Railroad President Randy Parten.

In other news… Plans for a water diversion and hydroelectric plant near Marble were threatened by a proposed Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River.

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Oct. 9, 1997

In an effort to expand its netowrk, Colorado Public Radio filed for KDNK’s 88.1 frequency, potentially limiting the radio station’s signal to the immediate Carbondale area. Although the request was still early in the approval process, KDNK’s roughly 1,200 members were alarmed. Potential responses included picketing, approaching the CPR board or merging with KAJX — which was in a similar position. In the end, a citizen action group was formed (and they must have been successful, since you can hear KDNK throughout the valley and over to Leadville.)

In other news… Trustees were contemplating a new vote for an open container law a year after such a measure was rejected 4-3.

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Oct. 11, 2007

The Senior Matters Committee, recently incorporated under Parks and Recreation, went before the trustees to report on their three year plan to bring a senior center to town. Characterized as a work in progress, the effort had recently been buoyed by a successful rodeo fundraiser and hopes that there might be space at the planned Third Street Center (which is indeed where it ended up).

In other news… The auditeria stage at the new Roaring Fork High School was christened with a Woody Creek Productions performance of Gershwin’s “Crazy for You.”

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