Mantua – This past weekend, Mantua hosted the 39th annual Potato Festival. Although it started off soggy with heavy downpours on opening day, the Festival delivered big smiles to an anxious and excitable crowd. Originally created as a Potato Show back in the day,  the current Festival focuses on all aspects of potato consumption, not production – adding to it all sorts of fun-filled games, music and carnival food. As at Festivals past, The Rotary Club sold golden delicious pierogies and Christ Lutheran Church sold their famous potato pancakes. Other vendors sold more typical carnival fare, such as fresh-cut fries, hot dogs, nachos, funnel cakes, caramel apples, and cotton candy. For those who were more interested in taste than counting calories, the Festival also included deep-fried anything-you-could-imagine.There were several potato-centered activities at the Festival this year, including a potato chip eating contest on Friday evening, which was won by Russell Hilverdink of Hiram and Jason Perez of Mantua. The mashed potato eating contest, which was held on Sunday afternoon, was a smashing success. The winners took just under three minutes to eat a full plate of steaming mashed potatoes without using their hands. Jason Perez was a repeat spudster, as he won the adult category for the 2nd year in a row. Newcomer, Hannah Maiden of Mantua, won by having the “cleanest” kid’s plate – but her face was definitely another story.
Potato Festival Bake-Off took place on Saturday evening. Entrants submitted tasty tater-based dishes to earn bragging rights. After judging, the items were auctioned off, bringing in more than $200 for the 4Cs Food Cupboard.
The winners of the Bake-Off were:
•    Appetizer/snacks: Kristen Raap / Bacon-Wrapped Potatoes
•    Salad: Barb Chipps / Potato, tomato, lemon salad
•    Bread: Maureen Ballentine / Potato Bread
•    Soup: Charlotte Osborn / Creamy Potato Soup
•    Main dish: Barb Chipps / Breakfast Potato Bake
•    Vegetable Side Dish: Lucy Kelley / Parmesan Artichoke Potato Casserole
•    Dessert: Selena King / Orange Delight Cake, which also won Best in Show
•    Sweet Potato: Nicole & Sarah Brugman / Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Another Festival tradition is the Potato Stomp race. The Stomp is a classic nine-mile road race through the scenic streets and roads of Mantua Village. Over 100 runners braved the rain to run the course this year. Top adult male and female winners of the Potato Stomp were: Scott Denham and Korianne VanAuken, while top male and female – 19 years of age and under were awarded to Hayden Shugarts and Sara Gorjanc. Proceeds from the Stomp benefit Crestwood High School Track & Cross Country teams.
Other activities at the Festival included musical performances by Jersey, Been a Long Time, and Sobos, along with several talented street performers. Kicking off the last day of the Festival was the crowd-pleasing parade down Rt. 44 and through town. This year’s parade didn’t disappoint, as a dozen trophies were awarded in various categories, including Best Color Guard, awarded to Chesty Puller Young Marines; Best Group, won by Alpha Pack 4-H Club; and Best Youth Float, awarded to the Crestwood Girls Scouts.
Remember, The Potato Festival happens, whatever the weather. Mark your calendar for the weekend after Labor Day, September 6 – 8, 2013 to enjoy next year’s Festival. To join the fun helping plan next year’s events, contact Elaine Jones at (330) 274-8019.