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Finding America: The Potato Drops

Finding America (Series I: Idaho): The 3rd Annual Potato Drop

The United States is full of awe inspiring places, people, and things- ghost towns turned tourist trap, archaic worshipping sites, old battlegrounds, vast canyons and mountain ranges, extinct volcanoes, and the stories of the people who have lived and toiled here. Thinking of these things, I realize that I have not yet met my country, and there are a many things to explore. But discovery is a process, and since I cannot learn it all at once I will start with where I am: Boise, Idaho.

I’ve been in Boise since September, 2015. During the past three months I’ve only brushed the surface of the sites and people that occupy this postage stamp of land. Though I could write about the Capitol building, or the Botanical Gardens, I will save these and others for another time. Instead, I will start this New Year with a new Boise tradition: the annual New Year’s Potato Drop.

I first heard about this event on December 30, 2015, and found the idea novel enough to attend. This year’s festival, ringing in 2016, was the Third Annual Potato Drop, and featured a 15ft Potato lowered for the countdown that initiated a fireworks display. Though I arrived at 11:45pm that evening and missed most of the vendors, it was great fun.

In final 10 minutes before the drop there was a short New Years Bachelorette program, where a young woman asked a series of questions to three eligible bachelors. She ultimately selected bachelor number three to sit with during the drop, while the other two bachelors were introduced to the runner-up bachelorettes. Immediately after this, came the countdown for the New Year and the ceremonial lowering of the Potato.

It was a bit silly, yes, and cold, but it was a nice way to remind us that life is more than ceremony. That life is full of cold days, times of loneliness, and other sufferings we must endure, but life is just as full, if we look, of the little things to make us smile, and of the 15 foot potatoes descending on a crane.

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Book Blurbs (A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins)

A Walk Across America (1979) is a memoir and adventure story written by Peter Jenkins (1951 – ) as he walked from Alfred, New York to New Orleans, Lousianna. His walk began October 15, 1973 but his journey started in the years before through his experiences in Woodstock, his work through college, and finally a divorce with his first wife. Then he spoke with Stu Wigent, a security guard and friend at Alfred University, and Stu tells Jenkins something that still resonates fourty years later:

“‘All this commotion that’s happening in the country? Sure, it’s all happening. You think it’s something new?’ He glared at me like a prizefight and shook his head. “No, sir! It’s been going on for thousands of years. Yeah, and a lot worse too. What you need to do, Peter, is stop believing all those slick people on the television and news and stop listening to those crazy people making that stuff they call music!’ He leaned forward and put both elbows on the desk with his hands together. “If all you college kids want to leave this country or burn it down, you better be mighty sure you know what you’re doing.’ His arms swept up and backward. ‘If you want to leave, go right ahead, but first you sure as shootin’ ought to give this country a chance!'” (15-16)

Jenkins was incredulous at first, but eventually he set out on the road and encountered America and her people. Along the way he met city folk and mountain men, experienced racism and country prejudice, church services, revivals, and cult-like farms, but from all these things he found that he lived in a country with a heart to it, and found a faith in God he was searching for. He concludes “In this book I’ve told you about the America I discovered as I traveled from Alfred, New York to New Orleans, Lousiana. There is much more to be told, and much more awaiting Barbara and me as we leave the Rockies and head for the Pacific.” (291)

Jenkins, Peter. A Walk Across America. New York: Harper Collins. 1979. Print.

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