By Scott Beveridge
BLACKFOOT, Idaho – The 1994 Idaho rodeo queen "appropriately" wore a calf-length dress made from burlap sacks when she appeared in the national contest.
Unfortunately for then-Queen Carol Young, her dowdy costume hangs in the Idaho Potato Museum near a 1950s publicity poster of a sexy Marilyn Monroe wearing a miniskirt made from an Idaho potato sack and standing in a potato field.
But, at least Young appeared to have had a date for the ball because her shabby and shapeless outfit bearing appliques of small potatoes decorated as Indians hangs next to a tackier burlap tuxedo once worn by an Idaho potato commissioner.
This museum has found a perfect home in a greystone former Oregon Short Line Railroad station in Blackfoot, for no other reason than most Americans likely recognize the Idaho as a potato.
The small town also boasts itself as the potato capitol of the world, situated in the Snake River Valley where weather and soil conditions make it the perfect spot on the continent to harvest spuds. The hot summer days and cool nights in an area with well-drained light, wind-blown and nutrient-rich soil have blessed Idaho with its number one industry.
Visitors to this tiny shrine to the potato pass a display explaining that Spanish explorer Francisco Pizzaro discovered the plant while conquering Peru in the 1540s. The tuber eventually made its way to Virginia in 1621, but it would take botanist Luther Burbank to develop the variety of russet that has taken root in Idaho.
There is so much more ahead, as any potato toy lover would be overwhelmed by the special display case dedicated to Mr. Potato Head.
Around the corner is a roomful of implements used through the ages to plant, nurture and harvest the Idaho potato.
Not to miss is the extensive display created by an Eagle Scout of hundreds of hand-held potato mashers collected by Byron Randell of Tomales, Calif. The implements with the ruby red wooden handles are especially sexy.
It gets better.
There is another case protecting the world's largest Pringle, created in 1991 by Proctor & Gamble engineers. The dehydrated processed potato chip, while unfortunately cracked, weighs 5.4 ounces and stretches 25 inches at its widest point.
The admission last summer was $3 to tour this unusual roadside attraction at 130 N.W. Main St.