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‘Viral’ Big Potato garners attention at home and abroad

people pose for a picture next to a 5 meter high replica of a potato in xylophagou village
People pose for a picture next to the Big Potato in Xylofagou (Photo: Reuters)

Xylofagou’s Big Potato has achieved its goal of bringing attention to both the village and its trademark product, but this is only the beginning, community leader George Tasou said on Friday.

The four-metre-tall sculpture went viral on Wednesday after photographs from puzzled passers-by circulated Cypriot social media. It has since gained international attention, with Tasou saying he has been inundated with phone calls from both Cyprus and abroad.

“Xylofagou has a long legacy of potato growing and used to be the main potato grower in Cyprus. This helped the village grow into the 10,000-strong community it is today,” Tasou told the Cyprus Mail.

The sculpture was erected to pay tribute to the potato, the main product of Xylofagou and the surrounding ‘red villages’ – named for their red soil – ahead of the Potato Festival, which usually takes place around this time of year.

Tasou added that he was inspired to create the Big Potato, as it has been named, after seeing Belfast’s Big Fish monument.

Social media users rushed to mock the potato, with many pointing out its suggestive shape.

“Other countries have instantly recognisable monuments, now we have ours,” former Cyprus ambassador to the UK Euripides Evriviades wrote on Twitter.

But Tasou is unfazed by the ridicule the sculpture has been subjected to, saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity and explaining that the elongated ‘spunta’ potato is Xylofagou’s pride and a favourite among Cypriot consumers.

“I’m not bothered because it’s brought publicity to our village, and I’m hoping it will promote the Cyprus potato around the world,” he said, adding that the Big Potato is guarded at night to keep would-be vandals at bay.

Besides, the Big Potato is not the first of its kind. Visitors to Idaho, which is known in the US for its potatoes, can visit the state’s potato museum and even stay inside a potato Airbnb. In Canada, another potato museum boasts a sculpture very similar to Xylofagou’s.

But this is only the beginning Tasou said, as the project is unfinished. Xylofagou council plans to decorate the base of the sculpture with local soil and rocks and add a bench for visitors wanting to be photographed with the Big Potato.

There will also be a kiosk offering potatoes cooked in many different ways, and Tasou says he has received a lot of suggestions on how to keep things interesting and seasonal – like giving the Big Potato a Christmas hat.

Next year, Xylofagou will also attempt to enter the Guinness book of records by frying the largest portion of chips in the world, about 800 kilogrammes’ worth.

The fiberglass sculpture cost €8,000 to design, manufacture and install, but the overall budget including the upcoming changes stands at €15,000.

“We’ve done it the wrong way round, but this way we know that people will come when it’s finally done”.

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