Mashed Potato Wrestling: A Messy And Beloved American Tradition

mashed potatoes in bowl
mashed potatoes in bowl - DronG/Shutterstock

You've heard of mud wrestling and perhaps even Jell-O wrestling. Get ready to enter the world of sparring in a vat of mashed potatoes. Several American festivals offer the event in annual summer competitions, so you can head to Minnesota, Maine, or South Dakota to fulfill your fantasies of fighting an opponent while wading through a pool of creamy spuds. For those worried about food waste, the mashed-potato-filled fighting ring is opened up for cows to come snack on once the final match has concluded.

Typically, a small area lined with hay bales and covered with a tarp is filled with potato flakes, some potato chunks, and water. We have Minnesota's Potato Days Festival to thank for the activity. Since the late 1930s, the festival has offered potato peeling contests, a Miss Tater Tot Pageant, and a display of sculptures made from mashed potatoes. The wrestling component was introduced in the 1990s. As Explore Minnesota explains, "Virtually everything you could possibly do to a potato is done over the two days...pick it, peel it, fry it, race it, bake it; but most of all enjoy it!" And, of course, wrestle.

Though Minnesota's competition was canceled in 2023 -- the company responsible for supplying potato flakes donated to families in need, instead -- the 2024 season is packed with events such as a mashed potato eating contest, firemen's water fight, strongman competition, and a rodeo.

Read more: 23 Types Of Potatoes And When To Use Them

These Potatoes Don't Need Gravy

mashed potato wrestling ring
mashed potato wrestling ring - David Deschesne/Shutterstock

While the potato festivals can outline their own rules for wrestling matches, basic principles remain the same. Many participants play for fun, but others get a bit more serious about the competition. Four-time mashed potato wrestling champion and world record holder Steve O'Gratin (his real name is Steve Barone) described to Star Tribune, "I remember not being able to breathe in the wet, cement-like potatoes, finding potatoes weeks after matches lodged in my wristwatch that had fermented, the cheering kids, and arriving one year to the pit on a helicopter."

Should the organized events in Minnesota not be enough to satiate competitive spirits, Maine's Potato Blossom Festival lasts a full week, with the wrestling match, potato-picking contests, a horseshoe tournament, blacksmith demonstrations, music, and plenty of food to keep attendees engaged. To add another date to your potato-wrestling calendar, South Dakota's Potato Days' potato-wrestling tradition has been going strong since 1995, and the festival -- in addition to wrestling -- also features a fun run, potato-decorating competition, and a parade so you can easily get your fill of spuds-related activities. You certainly won't find couch potatoes walking around these jam-packed events.

Read the original article on Tasting Table