Shelley celebration is spud-tacular

SHELLEY – Thousands attended the 83rd Idaho Annual Spud Day in Shelley on Saturday.
The oldest contest in this annual event is Spud Picking. Different age groups pick up different weights of potatoes.
Children as young as 4- to 5-years-old can compete for the prize money. At age 17, everyone competes in the adult category. Women pick up 400 pounds of potatoes; men pick up 500 pounds in this timed event.
This is the ninth year in a row that Chad Baker of Pocatello has claimed the title of male World Champion Spud Picker. This is also the 10th time Baker has earned the title.
“The best part of picking spuds is to remember you’re having a good time,” he said.
Asked why he does it, Baker said, “For the money and for bragging rights. I don’t like to lose.”
In a little over four minutes, Baker gathered spuds into a basket and then dumped these same potatoes into bags. Besides bragging rights, Baker received a plaque and $100 cash.
His sister, Ronalee Williams of Idaho Falls, won the female World Champion Spud Picker for the fifth time in a row. She said she also competes for the money. As the female victor, she won $100 and a world champion plaque.
It’s a yearly family tradition, Williams said. Their Uncle Ted [Taylor] claimed the men’s title 16 years in a row.So what are some tips from these world champions?
“I like a long skinny row,” Williams said. “I fill my basket about halfway before I dump it; the basket is not as heavy that way.
“Don’t be spilling your potatoes,” she said. Any potatoes that are dumped out the bag must be picked up again.
Competitor Melissa Stark volunteered, “Keep the handle of the basket down so it doesn’t get in your way. I scoop with my forearms, not my hands.
“Use the basket to scoop the potatoes into the line,” she said. “Keep hold of the sack; you will lose time if you need to put potatoes back into it.”
This year 16 women and 18 men competed.
On the men’s side, it was Baker with a time of 4:05.44. Steve Prescott was second at 4:57.34; he won $75. Jon Stosich was third atf 6:18.33 and took home $50.
Williams' time was 4:47.19. Melissa Stark was second at 5:24.00; she won $75. Lupe Garza was third at 6:34.27; she won $50.
In the ever-popular Spud Tug, Team Horsepower defeated the Journey Church team and reclaimed the title of Spud Tug champions and $100.
For five of the last six years, Team Horsepower has been the team to beat. (Last year the team lost to the Crapo team. Team Horsepower was back in sync this year.)
It is composed of Dan Stark, Jacob Versey, Josh Versey, Nathan Versey and Dustin Sobiesky.
In the Spud Tug, the combined weight total of the contestants cannot exceed 1,000 pounds. There are two divisions—youth and adult.
Two teams face off against each other with a team at opposite ends of a rope. It’s a traditional tug-of-rope contest with the addition of a vat of freshly poured potatoes.
The potatoes are mixed via a cement mixer and poured into a 12-by-8-by-2-foot hole in the ground.
It’s a single-elimination contest. The victor is the team that pulls its opponent into the spuds. The winning team wins a tall trophy and $100. The second place team won $50. This was the first time the second place team earned money.