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Potato Festival Kickoff Dinner photo.jpg

Front row, from left: Grace Nyseth, Elizabeth McKoen, Jeanne Petrik, Bob Petrik, Oaklee McKoen, Annette Chavez. Back row, from left: Tayla Berry, Jennifer Ibarra Barajas, Gabby Haskins, Zoe Hill Sparks

The Merrill Lions Club officially kicked off the 83rd annual Klamath Basin Potato Festival Sept. 14 at the Merrill Civic Center.

Vicki Liskey and Diane Ongman emceed the evening, which included introductions of and questions for the queen candidates. Tayla Berry, Bonanza, Grace Nyseth, Henley, Zoe Hill Sparks, Klamath Union, Gabby Haskins, Lost River, Jennifer Ibarra Barajas, Mazama, and Annette Chavez, Tulelake, are running for the title. Elizabeth McKoen, daughter of Mike and Jennifer McKoen, and Oaklee McKoen, daughter of Chris and Loralee McKoen, are serving as this year’s junior princesses.

Also attending the dinner were the candidate chaperones, parents, school administrators and teachers, and Lions Club members.

Bob and Jeanne Petrik of Merrill, and their family, are grand marshals of the 2020 Festival.

The Petriks are graduates of Merrill High School and have been active in Lions Club, Lost River Boosters, and Merrill Presbyterian Church for decades. Their contributions to the community have made many projects possible, including the annual Potato Festival and the giant American flag that flies over Merrill.

After a potato bar provided and served by the Lost River FFA, each queen candidate got a chance to address a topic important to her life. Questions ranged from the candidates’ career goals and plans for after high school, leadership opportunities they have had, how COVID-19 has impacted their lives, and the Basin water crisis.

Amie McAuliffe announced this year’s topic for the composition skills contest. Instead of focusing on the negative disruptions our country has faced, the girls will write about positive things that have occurred in 2020 related to COVID-19. Written composition is one of the four areas in which the candidates are judged.

The Potato Festival talent show and queen coronation will be October 10. Whether this will be a virtual event or the public can attend has yet to be determined.

There will be a parade and free barbecue on the day of the festival, October 17. Exhibits will be limited and vendors will be set up outdoors.