The Idaho Potato Drop Has Big Plans for New Year’s Eve
By Liza Long
“What if we dropped a giant potato from that crane on Eighth Street on New Year’s Eve?” In 2012, a question posed half in jest over a casual dinner set in motion an event that would bring worldwide fame to Idaho’s best-known agricultural product. The Idaho® Potato Drop, now in its fifth year, has been featured everywhere from the MSNBC to Readers Digest. With its cleverly designed iconic “Glowtato” and a slate of big-name entertainment and sports events, the event brings together locals and visitors from around the globe to celebrate the New Year in a memorable, unusual, and just plain fun way.
“We wanted to make Boise a world destination for New Year’s Eve—and we’ve done that,” Dylan Cline, the entrepreneurial force behind the Idaho® potato drop, told me when we met at Key Design Websites, Cline’s chic modern office on State Street in Boise. In the first year alone, news outlets from around the world featured the giant potato, introducing as many as 3.7 billion people to Idaho’s famous tuber.
Cline’s big idea was met with resistance at first. When he told his girlfriend, Sandi Nahas, about his big idea, she said, “Honey, just because there’s a crane doesn’t mean you have to drop a potato from it.” Others, perhaps thinking about the potato’s resemblance to something less palatable, suggested that Cline should drop a gem for the Gem State instead. But Cline was undeterred by the “tater haters.”
One person who immediately recognized the event’s potential to become a worldwide sensation was Frank Muir, the executive director of the Idaho Potato Commission. The organization signed on as a sponsor. The commission’s mascot, Spuddy Buddy, is a popular feature at the event.
“Dylan stayed true to what he knew would make people from around the country and the world want to see a potato,” Muir told me when we spoke by telephone. “The New Year’s Eve Potato Drop is consistent with everything we and the commission do to promote Idaho’s most famous crop, and we are proud to have been part of it from the start.”
The Idaho® Potato Drop’s fifth year promises to be even bigger and better than the previous ones. In addition to world-class fireworks, the main stage will again feature a variety of local and nationally-known performers. With its multi-story Toyota Rail Jam built by Ryan Neptune and Gateway Parks, the event is now an official ISSA and USASA-sanctioned competition. Athletes from Idaho and around the country can earn points toward qualifying for the Olympic Games.
This year, Mountain America Credit Union will sponsor a free family tent where parents can bring their children out of the cold to enjoy a variety of activities, including a story-telling competition with local award-winning author Elaine Ambrose, whose children’s book, Gaters and Taters, fits perfectly with the event’s theme.
Mountain America Credit Union has also selected several local nonprofit booths, including the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, the Wyakin Warrior Foundation, the Idaho Humane Society, Neighborworks Boise, Treasure Valley Children’s Theater, and the YMCA.They are asking the public to nominate an additional three community nonprofits. Details on the competition can be found on Greenbelt Magazine’s Facebook page.
Speaking to the event’s universal appeal, Idaho Potato Commission’s director Muir described that first drop in the Grove Plaza that would become the Zions Bank building. As the potato dropped, Muir asked a couple standing next to him where they were from. They replied, “New York.”
“You’re kidding me!” Muir exclaimed. “You could be watching the crystal ball drop in Times Square, and you’re here instead?”
“We can see the ball anytime,” the couple replied. “But this is the first time we’ve ever heard of a potato drop.”
Cline’s entrepreneurial vision extends into every aspect of his life. When we spoke, Cline had recently returned from a sold-out string of shows, opening for The Head and the Heart. A session musician who plays everything, Cline’s current hobby is building a guitar. A few years ago, Cline encouraged his girlfriend Sandi to start playing keyboard and exposed her to Boise’s music scene. Later that year, Nahas made her professional debut with DeVaard, one of Cline’s local musical bands, playing local festivals such as TreeFort, Boise Music Festival and the Hyde Park Street Fair. In addition to running two businesses, the couple also operates a nonprofit organization, Idaho Charitable Events, which helps other nonprofits plan events and fundraisers in the community.
But the Idaho® Potato Drop is their signature event. “We love being able to throw this free party for the whole community, right in downtown Boise,” Cline said. “Right from the start, the whole point was to have fun.”
“Folks sometimes don’t understand the value of having a state that is known for a potato,” Muir told me. “But when we ask people what word they associate with Idaho potatoes, quality is the first thing that comes to mind. We are really proud of the Idaho potato.”
INSET BOX Idaho’s #GlowTato by the Numbers
• Number of years the Idaho Potato Drop has existed: 5
• Size of the foam block used to create the potato mold: 20 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet
• Number of people who fit inside the potato: 16
• Number of lights used to illuminate the potato: 10,000 plus
• Number of people who attended the first year: approximately 40,000
• Number of people who saw news stories about the Idaho® Potato Drop: 3.7 billion
For more information, or to learn about vendor and sponsorship opportunities, visit idahopotatodrop.com