Halloween enthusiasts across the U.S. have started a new tradition of handing out spuds to kids for Halloween, according to Denver-based Potatoes USA.
“It honestly started as a joke,” said Pat Foy, a self-employed contractor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I thought, if I’m going to give something out to kids on Halloween, I don’t want to just give them something that makes them go nuts. I’m of Irish descent, so potatoes made sense. I gave away big baking potatoes, and before I knew it, it took on a life of its own. Who would’ve thought?”
Foy is known around his hometown as the “Potato Man.” Every year, the trick-or-treaters of Lancaster flock to his house for a quick break from a sea of sugar to say hello and grab a potato. The tradition has gotten so popular that not even a pandemic could stop it. When COVID-19 hit, Foy, with the help of a friend, built a potato chute out of PVC pipe to deliver potatoes from a distance.
“They were like missiles coming down,” he said. “The kids loved it.”
Foy’s not the only one handing out spuds on Halloween. Up in Anchorage, Alaska, Matt Schultz, a pastor at Anchorage First Presbyterian Church, has also become an internet sensation for giving away potatoes alongside his traditional bucket of candy.
“The trick started with a giant basket of candy. I just put one potato in the middle as something unexpected that they could grab instead,” Schultz said. “I was shocked how many kids were just delighted by the idea – they would grab and hold it over their head like a trophy. That first year I gave away at least 20 pounds of potatoes. Eventually, we ran out and had to stop.”
Schultz has given kids the choice between candy and a potato. In the beginning, he said, only about 10 percent of the trick-or-treaters chose the potato. But now, as the years have gone by and Foy’s house has become a more popular Halloween destination, kids are leaving behind fistfuls of candy in favor of a potato.
John Toaspern, former marketing director of Potatoes USA, has made similar waves in his own neighborhood handing out bags of chips.
“Kids spend all night getting nothing but sweets,” he said. “I thought, by the time they get to my house, they’ll probably want something savory and more substantive than candy to balance it all out. I started handing out bags of potato chips alongside the candy, and they were a massive hit. Almost all the kids chose the chips instead.”
Whatever the reason, Pat Foy, Matt Schultz, John Toaspern and their potatoes have all become staples of their towns’ Halloween traditions.
“I used to joke with my wife that I always knew I was going to be famous,” Foy said. “I just had no idea it would be because of spuds. Now, I’ll take my dogs out in the morning for a walk and kids will see me and yell ‘hey Potato Man.’ But hey, there are much worse things to be in life than being a hero to children.”
For more information, visit PotatoGoodness.com.