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Planning under way for Potato Festival Oct 16-18
  By LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 9/28/14
     Vickie Liskey has good reason to remember the 1950 Klamath Basin Potato Festival.

   She was a junior princess.

   “I’m sure I went before that, but that’s the one I really remember,” laughs Liskey of the memory.

   The annual spud festivals have been part of her family’s life. And this year, along with serving as co-secretary, she’s also president of the Merrill Lions Club, the organization that sponsors the festival.

   This year’s festival, with the theme of the 77th Spud-Tacular, will run Oct. 16 through 18 in Merrill.  

   “It’s kind of the heart of the community,” Liskey says of the festival, which celebrates the end of the harvest season with a focus on potatoes, a major Klamath Basin crop, especially in the tri-community region of Merrill, Malin and Tulelake.

   “This is us. This is what we do,” Liskey says of the festival with its focus on potatoes. “We raise potatoes. It’s who we are.”

   That special role is being recognized by the Oregon Heritage Commission, which earlier this month voted unanimously to designate the festival as an Oregon Heritage Tradition. The designation will be formally awarded at the Thursday, Oct. 16, Potato Festival Queen talent show and crowning at Lost River High School.  

   “It’s a special honor,” says Liskey, who credits Greg Matthews with helping the festival gain the designation.

   Liskey says her role is simplified by the long-time efforts of others. She compares her role overseeing the festival with   being a symphony conductor because, while she directs, “Everybody does their part and it all flows together. The overall support, how many people help out, it’s amazing. It’s been a thrill to work with all of them and see the inner workings.”

   While she’s the conductor of the festival, she won’t be taking that role when a new group, the Klamath Symphony, performs at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, the festival’s big day. The musicians will perform while 1,500 to 2,000 festival goers will chow down on food offered at the traditional free barbecue, which offers barbecued beef and, of course, baked potatoes.  

   The day’s activities will begin with the annual Linkville Lopers Spud Run at 9 a.m., when the Merrill Civic Center will open its doors for its always fascinating array of exhibits and displays. Pop Warner football games will begin at 10. The traditional Main Street parade will begin at 11 with floats, classic vehicle, horses, marching groups and children.

   Leading the parade will be this year’s grand marshal, Vernon “Wesley” Haskins, a Merrill native who worked in potato sheds, on sheep ranches and grew potatoes and sugar beets.

   Afternoon activities will include a beer garden, raffle drawing, flu shots and first-ever Potato Festival Rod, Custom & Classic Car Show at the Merrill Park/Merrill City Hall Lawn. Awards will be given for people’s choice, best old hot rod, and police department special trophy.

   “There’ll be something going on all the time,” Liskey says of the Saturday events.

   The festival will actually begin Thursday, Oct. 16, with exhibits accepted at the Merrill Civic Center from 2 to 6 p.m., the same hours commercial and group booths will be set-up.

   The day’s major event will be the crowning of the Potato Festival queen, with activities — a talent show with dessert buffet — beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Lost River High School. Veronica Turner, the Henley High student who was the 2013 queen, will crown her successor   from a field that includes Kayla DeHoop of Henley High, Conchita Murillo of Lost River, Alejandra Avila of Bonanza, Hannah Snoozy from Mazama, Taylor Herman of Tulelake and Leah Hanseth from Klamath Union.

   On Friday, Oct. 17, exhibits will be taken at the Merrill Civic Center from 8 a.m. to noon, registrations for the car show will be 8 to 10 a.m., and free baked potatoes with toppings will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Merrill Umpqua Bank. The public can view civic center displays from 1 to 5 p.m. Closing out the day will be two football games, Hosanna versus Chiloquin at 5 and Lost River versus Rogue River at 7.


  2014 Potato Festival Queen candidates (left) Alejandra Avila, Conchita Murillo, Kayla de Hoop, Taylor Herman, Leah Hanseth, and Hannah Snoozy along with the junior princesses.





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