Potato Blossom Festival

Andrew Avery, recreation director for the Town of O’Leary, is looking forward to once again being able to host the PEI Potato Blossom Festival. Though the festival is smaller this year, taking place over the weekend of July 23 to July 25, events like the Miss Potato Blossom pageant, and the Potato Blossom Parade are still taking place. The Farmer’s Banquet won’t be taking place during the festival itself, but the Potato Blossom Festival Board hopes to hold it in the fall. Jillian Trainor photo

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This year’s Potato Blossom Festival in O’Leary will be pared down than it was in past iterations, but Katie MacLennan is looking forward to it.

“I hope everyone will look forward to seeing it,” said the chair of the board organizing the festival. “Yes, things will be different, but that’s just the way it has to be for now, and just be thankful for what we are able to achieve.”

One of the biggest changes is the timeline of events. Instead of taking place over the span of a week, this year’s festival will be from July 23 to July 25.

“We were, in the past, discussing shortening the festival to begin with,” said Andrew Avery, recreation director for the Town of O’Leary. “When we started realizing what was realistic this year, we knew we weren’t going to need that many days and activities that we normally did.”

Contestants

Five contestants will be vying for the title of Miss Potato Blossom during this year’s pageant for the PEI Potato Blossom Festival. Miss Potato Blossom will be crowned on July 24 at O’Leary Elementary with the pageant starting at 7 pm. In photo: L-R: Keana Jeffery, Miss Kent Building Supplies, Grace Peters, Miss West Prince Video & Variety, Alyx Shea, Miss O’Leary Pharmacy, Hannah Gallant, Miss O’Leary Lions Club, and Darcy Ellis, Miss Town of O’Leary. Submitted photo

Another change is in venue. Typically, events like the Miss Potato Blossom pageant would be at the O’Leary Community Sports Centre. Because renovations are ongoing at the sports centre that event will be taking place in the gym of O’Leary Elementary School. The Potato Blossom Parade will also be taking place this year, though, like the town’s Christmas parade, it will be a stationary parade, taking place at the Willis Memorial Race Track.

While the pageant will still be taking place, some events, like the adult singing competition, and the potato peeling competition, won’t be able to happen this year. The Farmer’s Banquet will be taking place, but not during the festival, and the hope is to have it in the fall instead. The board is also hoping to hold other festival events throughout the year as restrictions relax a bit more.

Despite the smaller nature of the festival, organizers are happy it’s able to happen at all. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Island festivals weren’t able to take place last year, including the Potato Blossom Festival.

“Last year was a quiet summer,” said Ms MacLennan. “It’s something we’ve been able to have for 52 years, and when you don’t have it, the community notices.”

Potato Blossom Festival 1

Kara MacIsaac, Miss Potato Blossom 2019, and Emily Maxfield, Miss First Runner Up, had a blast during the potato peeling championship during the 2019 Potato Blossom Festival. Unfortunately, the championship is one event that won’t be taking place at this year’s Potato Blossom Festival. Other events, like the adult singing competition and the Farmer’s Banquet are off the docket as well. Submitted photo

Mr Avery added that the festival is also a great economic driver for the town, as people travelling to the community to watch or take part in some of the events at the festival will stop to get gas, or grab a bite to eat while they’re in O’Leary.

Along with pandemic regulations, there have been some challenges to getting the festival ready in time. Normally planning begins some time in February, but at that point the organizing board was still in the process of recruiting volunteers, and filling in vacant spots on the board.

“We don’t have a whole lot of volunteers this year,” said Ms MacLennan. “It was kind of a scramble to get things going, but the few volunteers we do have are working hard at it.”

Despite the challenges, the board and recreation director are looking forward to once again being able to host the festival again.

“I want to see people coming out and enjoying themselves, and start feeling a little normal again,” Mr Avery concluded.

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