The annual Potato Bowl USA event will feature different menu items instead of french fries this year, as the J.R. Simplot Company has withdrawn from the event due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s festival is being dubbed “Potato Bowl in the Park” and will feature free hot dogs and potato chips, in place of the usual french fries. The potato celebration is set to be held on Thursday, Sept. 16, from 4-8 p.m. in University Park.

“This year we will be happy to promote a different segment of our growers, the chip growers,” said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

Kreis said members of the Potato Bowl Committee respect the decision made by all Potato Bowl sponsors, including Simplot’s choice to not participate this year.

A statement for the Boise, Idaho-based Simplot, indicates the company wants to protect the health and safety of its workers, customers and community members from the spread of the coronavirus. The statement also indicated company executives look forward to rejoining the event in the future.

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“This was a very difficult decision and one we made with considerable thought,” reads a portion of Simplot’s Tuesday statement. “We take great pride in hosting this family-friendly event each year and look forward to many years of free french fries and supporting the Fighting Hawks.”

Simplot is working to meet or exceed health guidance provided by local health authorities, as well as the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

A few other festival events have also been canceled this year, including the Potato Bowl Golf Tournament and the Rotary Club Pancake Feed. The absence of the signature dish means there will be no french fry eating contest, and the introduction of UND’s football team will also not take place.

Other events are still set to happen. Popular bounce games will still be in the park, and a fireworks show will be downtown on Friday evening, Sept. 17. The KEM Shrine Potato Bowl Parade is still set for that Saturday morning and tailgating will still happen for UND’s football game against Drake University, that Saturday afternoon.

Kreis said the Potato Bowl Committee will continue to monitor and follow all local regulatory requirements and make changes if necessary. People can check the website for all scheduling and updates.