Joe Tom Haltom

Joe Tom Haltom, Grand Marshal for the 170th Tater Day Parade rides with his wife Betty in a convertible driven by Doug Dotson Monday in Benton.

Closed streets creates mall for Tater Day in Benton

BENTON- The 170th annual “Tater Day” is now in the history books. Sunny but cool weather greeted the throngs of thousands who lined Benton’s Main Street Monday waiting for the parade to begin. For the first time in modern history the street was completed shut down for the giant festival from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The absence of traffic completely changed the street and the feel of the festival. The closed Main Street took on the appearance of a mall. People walked up and down the street able to move freely without having to dodge back and forth on the sidewalks sharing the street with push cart vendors not automobiles. Vehicles all of them including the trucks with Confederate flags piloted by cruising teenagers were gone from Main Street on Tater Day.

The effects of closing Main Street radiated outward through the North end of Benton. Many businesses along Hwy. 641 in the area north of 5th Street were closed or were without customers, the street running north of town was all but empty just before parade time.

The parade that began at 11 a.m. featured antique vehicles, cars, trucks, tractors, the high school band, beauty pageant winners and of course Joe Tom Haltom the parade grand marshal. Haltom joked the driver of the convertible he was riding in was reckless and he was trying to get him arrested. Haltom’s driver Doug Dotson just laughed and took the teasing from Haltom in stride.

Haltom, a former Marshall County Sheriff, successful businessman and philanthropist who was instrumental in making the new Marshall County Hospital a reality was selected as Grand Marshal for the Tater Day Parade by the event sponsors the Benton Kiwanis Club. He and his wife Betty waved and greeted people as they passed.

Miss Tater Day Leanndra Thompson also was in the Tater Day parade as were many of the other winners from the Tater Day Beauty Pageant. The pageant like many of the other festival events is held prior to the Monday festivities. For many years now Tater Day activities have filled a three-day weekend. Many of the concession stand operators set up along Main Street nearly a week before Tater Day.

Political candidates were in short supply this year for Tater Day. With no upcoming election in either spring or fall this year in Kentucky there was little reason for campaigning. That will probably change dramatically for Tater Day next year when all the county office holders’ seats are up for re-election.


Leanndra Thompson rides on the back of a convertible in the Tater Day parade yesterday. She was named Miss Tater Day during the Tater Day pageant last week.

marching marshals

Marshall County High School Band was again one of the top draws for spectators at the Tater Day Parade in Benton yesterday.