Potatoes cause massive traffic jam

Call it Spudapalooza.

EDMONTON — Call it Spudapalooza.

That was no rock concert spawning the massive lineup of cars that gridlocked traffic on the Manning Freeway northeast of Edmonton for several hours on Saturday — it was a potato giveaway. An alliance of community groups and a local potato farmer decided to give away 45,000 kilograms of free spuds as a way of promoting locally grown food and to draw attention to the valuable farm land being used for urban development.

Organizers expected a couple of thousand people might come out, but were taken completely by surprise when several thousand more started lining up on the road leading to the farm by 7:30 a.m.

“This certainly exceeded what we expected,” said Michael Walters of the Greater Edmonton Alliance, a collection of community groups, small businesses, religious organizations and labour activists.

He said at one point, the lineup of cars stretched an estimated eight kilometres.

However, he said it wasn’t as much of a “pick-and-grab” as some might have expected.

“There were hundreds of people in line at one time, just waiting for a tractor to come and till the fields and turn the potatoes over,” he explained. “Then people just started digging.”

Just four hours after the event started, potato farmer Gordon Visser had to announce to hundreds of waiting potato pickers that the supply of spuds had been exhausted. But Walters said it was a good way to impress upon city dwellers that instead of relying on food that’s shipped to Canada, they should support local growers and the effort to preserve urban agricultural land.

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