ROCKPORT – One thing we enjoy in the Midcoast is a good festival and we certainly have our share. One of the lesser-known festivals, now in its third year, is the Tater Tot Festival that takes place at Rockport Marine, 1 Main Street, at Rockport Harbor.
I would have missed it entirely had someone not posted the flyer on Facebook. It’s not really a festival in the true sense of the word and it’s not really about glorifying Tater Tots. It is about the employees of Rockport Marine taking time to gather a few times a year for lunch. They dine together as a group. They pick a theme and away they go.
This year, for the third year, Tater Tots won the time slot. Actually, February 2 was National Tater Tot Day, but when you have to share your day with a Super Bowl and a groundhog it can get a little crowded.
Lewis Natale, purchasing agent for Rockport Marine, said the festival is a way to get all the employees together.
“We try to do a celebration, or gathering, or special lunch a few times a year,” he said. “This is a good one for the winter.”
Natale said the idea was born at the break table.
“People were joking around,” he said. “Somebody mentioned Tater Tots and it stuck. Today we’ll cook-off 20 pounds of Tater Tots and we’ll feed 30 or so people.”
Natale said it’s not just Tater Tots deep-fried gold, as he referred to it.
“We have pot roast you can put over your Tater Tots, and sausage gravy,” he said. “Cheese sauce, sour crème, salsa, bacon bits, scallions, shredded cheese, hot sauce, ketchup, we have all the toppings.”
There were bacon-wrapped Tater Tots and a vegan variety, as well.
“It’s all about balance,” said Marty Allwine, who prepared the bacon wraps.
Natale said five or six people come together to prepare the lunch.
“During the year we’ll do a pig roast and a couple of lobster bakes,” he said. “We’ve done a sausage fest, hot dogs and hamburgers, chowders, tacos, and BBQ chicken. We have a huge grill we can prepare food on.”
Natale said everybody comes at once and it’s a Tater-Tot free for all.
“Tater Tots 2020,” he said. “Customers, vendors and retirees, anybody that’s here at the time are welcome.”
According to Foodimentary.com, Tater-Tots were invented in 1953 at the Ore-Ida laboratories. The company was big into frozen French fries. The plant was located on the Oregon, Idaho, border, so hence the name Ore-Ida.
They were looking for a way to use potato scraps left over from cutting French fries.
The name literally means “baby potatoes.” Tater for potato and tots meaning little ones.
Americans consume over 70 million pounds of Tater-Tots a year and they are the most popular side dish in the American public school system.
You can read about the complete history of the Tater-Tot: eater.com/2017/8/28/16159710/tater-tots-ore-ida-history