55th Annual Potato Bowl USA Week is upon us

Fun at University Park on Thursday ushers in weekend parade and Fighting Hawks football; check out all the scheduled events

Saturday morning will feature a very special KEM Shrine Potato Bowl Parade, brought to you by Opp Construction, at 10 a.m., along DeMers Avenue in downtown Grand Forks-East Grand Forks.

University Park, on Thursday, may be sans the usual French fry frenzy for this year’s 55th Annual Potato Bowl USA Week but organizers still plan a big night for the community, with hot dogs, chips, other concessions, kid games and music provided by on-site DJ’s .

The lack of plentiful portions of deep-fried spuds is probably the most noticeable change from the usual Potato Bowl Week festivities, due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns in the community.  Fries aside, the other usual mainstays will be served up hot and fresh this week, including potato chip giveaways at Scheels All Sports on Wednesday, Hugo’s Baked Potato Bar on Thursday, and the Get Wet and Run Wild!  Hugo’s Potato Bowl 1K and 2K Races (Under age 14) on Friday.

Also Friday, is the AgCountry Fireworks show, slated for just around dusk in a different location this year — near the Sorlie Bridge in Downtown Grand Forks-East Grand Forks.

The parade will wrap up with plenty of time to head over to the Alerus Center for tailgating and the 4 p.m. kick-off of the Fighting Hawks football game versus the Drake University Bulldogs.

Parade and game

Fritz Pollard Jr.

Saturday morning will feature a very special KEM Shrine Potato Bowl Parade, brought to you by Opp Construction, at 10 a.m., along DeMers Avenue in downtown Grand Forks-East Grand Forks. This year’s parade Grand Marshal is Fritz Pollard III, from Frederick, Md. Pollard III is the son of the late UND alum and U.S. Olympic medalist Fritz Pollard Jr., whose name will officially grace UND Athletics’ High Performance Center after a dedication ceremony set for 2 p.m., Friday in the mezzanine of the newly-named Pollard Center. Moving forward, the building officially will be called the Frederick “Fritz” D. Pollard Jr. Athletic Center. Pollard III will be joined in Grand Forks by Meredith Pollard Russell, the granddaughter of Fritz Pollard Jr.

“It feels great to know he is being recognized in this way,” said Fritz Pollard III, about his father. “I know how much my dad loved going to the University and visiting after he graduated. He just loved it up there. It’s a tremendous honor for him to have his name on a building.”

Serving as a Potato Bowl USA 2021 Parade Ambassador, this year, will be Linnea Grotte. Grotte is a 2020 graduate of Thompson (N.D.) High School, and is starting her sophomore year at UND. She is studying plant and food science with a career goal of becoming a plant breeder.  She is the daughter of Kelly and Joni Grotte from Thompson.

The parade will wrap up with plenty of time to head over to the Alerus Center for tailgating and the 4 p.m. kick-off of the Fighting Hawks football game versus the Drake University Bulldogs.

​Check out the full week at a glance, with more details.

History

On Sept. 24, 1966, the very first Potato Bowl football game was played at old Memorial Stadium, formerly located on campus on the corner of 2nd Avenue North and North Columbia Road. UND walloped Idaho State University by a wide margin in that game. That first game was billed as a battle between two of the largest potato growing regions in the United States (Idaho and the Red River Valley). UND is 41-13 Potato Bowl games all time.  The idea for creating a week of festivities to celebrate potatoes and football was the brainchild people such as Earl Strinden, former executive vice president of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, former UND Athletics Director Len Marti, former head football Coach Marv “Whitey” Helling, assistant football coach Jerry Olson and sports information director Lee Bohnet.

About Fredrick ‘Fritz’ Pollard, Jr.

Frederick “Fritz” Pollard Jr. was part of UND’s Athletics Hall of Fame’s initial class after a standout career in football, boxing and track and field. In 1939, he was one of the school’s first African American graduates.

Pollard Jr. was a triple-threat football star, earning all-conference honors three times and was named to the Little All America team in 1938. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic track team, winning a bronze medal in the high hurdles in the 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin, Germany, despite a serious leg injury suffered aboard ship on the way to Berlin. He was leading the race, but tripped over the next-to-last hurdle and still finished third.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Pollard Jr. taught physical education in Chicago. He later worked as human relations commissioner under Mayor Richard J. Daley. During the Kennedy administration, he began working for the U.S. State Department, coordinating goodwill visits abroad by U.S. athletes. Fritz Pollard Jr. died in 2003.