LOWVILLE — Children were happy at the first-ever “Mr. Potato Head” competition at the Lewis County Fair on July 17, mainly because they got to play with their food.
At a long table with dishes filled with slices, chunks and pieces of colorful produce, 35 children between 3 and 11 years old picked a russet potato from a metal tub and had 20 minutes to create their Mr. Potato Head masterpieces.
Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Summer Youth Coordinator Rachel Solomon said she came up with the idea for the competition when she was trying to figure out something new to help children connect with fresh produce to replace the general “veggie art” done in the past.
The contest was part of the “healthy living” theme for the day at the Fair’s 4-H Youth Tent.
“I wanted to do something with fresh fruits and vegetables and I thought because of [the movie] “Toy Story,” the kids would be more interested with Mr. Potato Head,” said Miss Solomon, “The contest can help them get to know the difference between the fruits and vegetables, get creative and just have fun.”
The kids wasted no time bringing the potatoes to life, grabbing broccoli for a plume of curly hair, forming big feet out of carrots at the end of skinny toothpick legs and mounting mushrooms on the sides of Mr. Potato’s “head” for ears.
Some contestants took the competition across species, like Storrey Cathey, who was celebrating her 10th birthday, with her Mr. Potato Puffer Fish and a Mr. Potato Pig by Autumn Simek, 6, who couldn’t help sampling the creative materials.
Miss Simek said the food was her favorite part of the activity while for Miss Cathey and first place winner, Josie Deamer, 9, it was all about the creativity.
Miss Deamer named her creation Mama Spike and gave her a back story: she has two kids named Lenny Spikel and Blake Spickle, made by her younger brother and sister.
“They all have spike in their names because of the toothpicks,” said Miss Deamer, who was able to name all except one of the many veggies and fruits she used in Mama Spike Potato Head.
Participants couldn’t agree on what they would do with their creations after the competition, but many said they couldn’t imagine eating them. Some were horrified at the thought.
“How could I eat Mama Spike? No way. She can be a decoration or a toy,” Miss Deamer said.
The second-place award went to Eli Kirkwood, 10, who named his creation Bobby Potato while Evelyn Faduski, 3, won the third-place award.
The event was made possible with a gift card donation from Walmart for the produce, Miss Solomon said, and was one part of the healthy living focus for the day.
A make-your-own-trail-mix station, displays showing how much sugar is in popular drinks and active games and coloring pages on the theme could also be found in the tent.