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Potato-cutting opens Potato Blossom Festival

Miss Potato Blossom 2017 and emcee for the 50th anniversary P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival’s opening ceremonies, Taylor Rix, left, and festival chair Faye MacWilliams look on as two members of the original Potato Blossom Festival, Alden Weeks and Stanley MacDonald cut a potato to official open the 2018 fair Monday night in O’Leary. Festival events continue until Sunday.
Miss Potato Blossom 2017 and emcee for the 50th anniversary P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival’s opening ceremonies, Taylor Rix, left, and festival chair Faye MacWilliams look on as two members of the original Potato Blossom Festival, Alden Weeks and Stanley MacDonald cut a potato to official open the 2018 fair Monday night in O’Leary. Festival events continue until Sunday. - Eric McCarthy

Founding fathers attend festival’s 50th anniversary official opening

O’LEARY

Faye MacWilliams has a simple wish for O’Leary’s 50th anniversary Prince Edward Island Potato Blossom Festival.

“I want people to come out and enjoy themselves,” the festival’s chairman said following official opening ceremonies Monday night at the Canadian Potato Museum. She said the festival staff is also very excited about staging this year’s weeklong 50th anniversary celebration.

Attendees for the opening ceremonies of the 50th anniversary P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival gather for a group photo around O’Leary’s giant potato.
Attendees for the opening ceremonies of the 50th anniversary P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival gather for a group photo around O’Leary’s giant potato.

Among those in attendance were the last surviving members of the committee that planned the first Potato Blossom Festival in 1968, Stanley MacDonald and Alden Weeks. MacDonald was one of the original eight committee members and Weeks was part of the next wave of eight volunteers who joined during the second organizing meeting. The pair, who cut a potato Monday to get the golden anniversary festival underway, marvelled how the festival has not only endured and grown, but has helped spawn other tributes to O’Leary’s vibrant potato industry, including the Canadian Potato Museum and the giant potato.

Standing in the shadow of the giant potato in front of the museum, MacDonald admitted it has served as a great advertisement for the museum and the festival.

Weeks and MacDonald will be the festival’s parade marshals on Saturday. MacDonald recalls the parade has been a festival feature from the start.

This year, the organizing committee has brought back an event which proved popular in the festival’s early years, a bicycle, tricycle and doll carriage parade. It will be held at the Community Sports Centre Saturday at 9 a.m., and MacWilliams knows the excitement is building. “Oh, they’re so excited,” she said of children who plan to enter.

Reflecting on the 50-year history of the P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival are 2018 festival chair Faye MacWilliams and members of the 1968 festival, Stanley MacDonald and Alden Weeks.
Reflecting on the 50-year history of the P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival are 2018 festival chair Faye MacWilliams and members of the 1968 festival, Stanley MacDonald and Alden Weeks.

There’s a large line-up for the P.E.I. Mutual Youth Talent Contest on Wednesday night and a waiting list of performers wanting to take part in Saturday’s Summerside Chrysler Dodge adult singing contest.

Other feature events include the Miss P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival Pageant on Thursday night, the Farmers Awards Banquet Friday night, the memorial spud run, parade, harness racing and Canadian potato peeling championship on Saturday and P.E.I. washer toss championship, car show and fireworks on Sunday.

“If the potato festival hadn’t been started, things like that may have never happened,” Weeks reflected.

Agriculture and Fisheries minister Robert Henderson announced during the opening ceremonies that he will be entering a team in the Canadian Potato-Peeling championship, and he laid down a challenge to opposition leader James Aylward to enter a team. In his remarks, Henderson described Prince Edward Island’s potato industry as a world leader and the festival’s original committee as visionary.

“I think it promotes the industry and it certainly acknowledges the area, which is a potato-growing area, for sure,” said Weeks. “I think a lot of farmers appreciate the attention which is drawn to the industry.”

Among the special events commemorating the 50th anniversary celebration will be a stage appearance Thursday night during the 2018 Miss Potato Blossom pageant by past Miss Potato Blossom queens.

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