The Union Colony of Colorado named their new town Greeley in 1870, to be a utopian agricultural community.  One of their first important cash crops was the potato.  In enormous quantities, high-grade Greeley spuds were shipped by rail across the country by the 1880s.

To celebrate Greeley’s great success with potatoes, the first Potato Day was held downtown in Lincoln Park on October 18, 1894 with 6,000 people in attendance.  The following year the attendance grew to 15,000 (more than Weld County’s entire population).

In 1906 Greeley’s 4th of July celebration honored the potato by naming the weekend event Greeley Spud Days.  It wasn’t until 1922, when the Spud Rodeo and Horseshow were added to the festivities, that Spud Days became the official name of Greeley’s 4th of July celebration.

Six men dressed as cowboys crouch in front of a parade float with a horse and Spud Rodeo sign.

These six men pose in front of a trailer for the Greeley Spud Rodeo parade.

Because of the popularity of the rodeo eventually Spud Days became known mostly as Spud Rodeo.

The Spud Rodeo name was changed to “Go West with Greeley” in 1947.  Then in 1971 the name was officially changed again to what is now called the Greeley Independence Stampede.

Dozens of businesses developed around the potato industry in Greeley including a number of potato chip manufacturers.  Some were tiny, selling homemade chips made in barrels and sold out of the backs of pick-up trucks. A number of potato based factories developed producing starch and chips in the Greeley area.  One local potato chip factory had a logo that was created in 1946 depicting a cartoon potato-man dressed in local cowboy regalia.  The logo character and the potato chips were called “Mr. Spud Chips.”

Metal sign with painted advertisement of a potato dressed up as a cowboy with text "Spud Chips".

This metal advertisement sign with Mr. Spud Chips dates to circa 1950 and is currently on display in the Peggy Ford Waldo gallery at the Greeley History Museum.

Beginning in 1987 the Friends of the Greeley Museums took up the cause of the potato once again and reinstituted “Potato Day” to celebrate our beloved spud.  The Friends of the Greeley Museums are a non-profit organization that supports the City of Greeley’s four museum sites – Centennial Village Museum, Greeley History Museum, 1870 Meeker Home and the White-Plumb Farm Learning Center.  Potato Day is held annually on the first Saturday after Labor Day in September at Centennial Village.  Potatoes are served with all the fixin’s and early period demonstrations and entertainments are shared with hundreds of visitors supporting the Greeley museums.

Originally published in the Greeley Tribune on September 3, 2010.
Written by Tym Lynch, former volunteer and Nancy Lynch, former Curator of Exhibits

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