What the Hell Is This Six-Ton Potato Doing in St. Louis?

Jun 30, 2017 at 12:19 pm
Roughly 1.4 million French fries in pre-fry form. - Photo by Quinn Wilson
Photo by Quinn Wilson
Roughly 1.4 million French fries in pre-fry form.
If you didn't think St. Louis could get any wackier going into the holiday weekend (with sinkholes swallowing cars downtown and surprise time capsules turning up under the Confederate monument in Forest Park) you might want to think again.

A six-ton potato came rolling into town today. Weighing in at 12,130 pounds, the big tater arrived on a 72-foot truck this morning at Billy Goat Chip Company (3136 Watson Road, 314-353-4628).

So the number one question on everyone's mind by now is obvious: "Is it real?" Well, a potato of this stature would take over 10,000 years to grow and probably wouldn't last too long before it became completely rotted. So instead, the Big Idaho Potato was simply constructed in 2012 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Idaho Potato Commission and bring awareness to their brand.

Billy Goat Chip Company owner Brian Roth explains that because of his company's partnership with the Idaho Potato Commission, the Big Idaho Potato made the chip shop one of its stops on its current cross-country tour. However, this wasn't the first time Billy Goat Chip Company and the Big Idaho Potato have linked up.

"When we first started in our little spot down at Loughborough and Macklind they stopped in, but we didn't have a partnership with them at the time," explains Roth. Since then the two companies have developed a relationship.

The big potato is currently on its sixth trek across the country. Larry Bathe, driver of the truck, has been with the company since 2012. "I started as a local driver," he explains, "but after the second tour it looked like so much fun that I asked if I could do it, and they said, 'Come on board.'"

The potato drew a large crowd of intrigued spectators on Friday morning, and caused many drivers on Watson Road to come to a complete stop in traffic just to see if what they were witnessing was, indeed, a giant potato. Nearly everyone in attendance took a picture with the enormous spud.

Some spectators traveled further than others to catch a glimpse. A woman named Kristina made the drive from Wentzville after seeing the traveling potato on KTVI (Fox-2) this morning. "When you see it going on TV you know it's big," she says, "but when you're standing beside it it's really, really huge."

St. Louis residents Tim and Connie Dunkle heard about the event through Billy Goat's Facebook page. Connie says, "I thought it would be cool to see it and the website for the truck has a 'follow the truck' tracker on it, which was fun." After seeing the truck in person, Tim says, "It's good advertising."

Big Idaho Potato ambassadors Kaylee Wells and Jessica Coulthard (a.k.a. the "Tater Twins") were along for the journey in their first year on the nationwide tour. Wells says the tour spans 25 states and is set to hit 61 cities this year.

The Big Idaho Potato isn't here to simply break the necks of confused motorists though. The company actually does a lot of good for the communities it visits. Potato farmers donate money to the Big Idaho Potato, which the group donates to food banks, pharmacies and other medical institutions across the country. The big spud is also involved with LiveOn New York, which encourages people to become organ donors. The charity work "allows us to try and use the draw of the truck to bring people in to see us and meet the people who are changing their local communities," says Bathe.

When on the road, Bathe says he sees a variety of reactions, from "mouths wide open" to a lot of "thumbs up and waving." So if you're on the highway during this holiday weekend and you see a gargantuan potato on the road beside you, be sure to show some love.

Or if you'd rather not leave it to fate, you can check out where the traveling tuber is on its website.