Courtesy Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion CommitteeGrilling teams wait for Weber Grill master Kevin Kolman to announce the winner of the Nov. 16 USA Onion Grill Off at the Boise State Broncos football tailgate. The competition ended in a tie.Football season is prime time to promote both onions and potatoes, marketers agree.
At Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium, the Parma-based Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee is sponsoring six onion grill-offs this fall.
Marketing director Sherise Jones said teams of celebrity grillers compete head to head at tailgating parties before each game.
The teams have included Idaho’s state governor and department of agriculture director, onion growers from Idaho and Oregon, teams from the Boise Air Force base and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and the grill master from partner Weber Grills U.S.A. in Chicago, who offered grilling tips and tricks.
“We set it up like any other tailgate and cook and sample onions out of our booth,” Jones said.
Teams use the same protein and come up with a recipe before the game, then cook on Weber gas grills in front of fans.
The committee distributes recipe cards from each match and encourages fans to stop at the supermarket on the way home to pick up Idaho- and Oregon-grown onions.
“We’ll post recipes on our website so more people can take advantage of them,” she said, “and we’re building up our recipe box with cool grilled items.”
Jones said the grill-offs have gained national TV exposure and helped spread the word that onions are healthy and homegrown, this year’s tagline, and they sport the American Heart Association’s HealthCheck logo.
A giant “Eat Onions” sign in the stadium also has been picked up on national TV, she said, which surprises people who only equate Idaho with potatoes.
Jones said moving the committee’s annual retail tailgating contest from January to September
Participants have until the end of November to return entries and photos.
Idaho Falls, Idaho-based potato grower-shipper Wada Farms, meanwhile, has repositioned its popular Easy Grillers as Tailgate Tators for college and pro football parties.
The tray packs of Idaho russets wrapped in gold foil have been grabbing attention for the past three years from Memorial Day through Labor Day, director of marketing Chris Wada said.
“This year we’ve continued the Easy Griller theme for the tailgate season, which has become a huge industry,” Wada said.
“You can grill Tailgate Tators in a parking lot or include them in your pre-game festivities at home.”
The Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission is the title sponsor of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, to be held Dec. 21 and broadcast on ESPN, the Bowl’s new owner.
“Last year had over 30,000 people in the stands and over 2 million people watching on ESPN,” said Frank Muir, commission president and chief executive officer.
The commission has hired ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox to shoot pre-game video and still shots of its Spuddy Buddy mascot in different stadiums, which fans have to guess.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun with this as the season progresses,” Muir said.