Bringing Maugerville's Big Potato back to life a 'proud moment' for mason

·3 min read
A Big Potato without any cracks is now visible to passersby on Route 105 in Maugerville. (Provided by Leon Daigle  - image credit)
A Big Potato without any cracks is now visible to passersby on Route 105 in Maugerville. (Provided by Leon Daigle - image credit)

Fredericton mason Leon Daigle remembers driving past the Big Potato on his Harley-Davidson 25 years ago and seeing the root vegetable for the first time in all its glory.

When he got the call asking him to restore the potato that towers over Route 105 in Maugerville, southeast of Fredericton, saying yes was a no-brainer.

"It's an icon and everybody goes by, they've seen it," Daigle said in an interview.

"It was deteriorating … for years, it was due to get fixed or it was going to fall or get worse."

Originally from Richibucto, Daigle has been a mason for nearly 35 years. His current business, A+ Masonry has been in business since 2002.

But despite having done numerous masonry restoration projects over the years, ranging from stone to block and ceramic tiles, restoring a gigantic potato was a challenging first.

The Boudreau family, owner of Silver Valley Farms, where the Big Potato stands, reached out to Daigle in July 2022.

The Big Potato has been waving to passing cars since 1969 and served as a fun backdrop for visitors taking pictures. Some describe it as an icon. In 2019, the potato even made its TV debut in a CarMax commercial

Spud in need of some surgery

Provided by Leon Daigle
Provided by Leon Daigle

The potato was originally sculpted by Winston Bronnum, when the produce market was known as Harvey's. Bronnum, who died in 1991, is known for creating other landmarks such as the world's biggest lobster in Shediac.

After Daigle examined the extensive damage the statue had sustained through the years, including large holes and numerous cracks reaching up from the base, he provided an estimate, and the family decided he was right for the job.

"She had a couple of hip replaced and a belly input and then a new epoxy paint job," Daigle said of the unique work the job required.

Mike Heenan/CBC News
Mike Heenan/CBC News

Along with his two sons, Cedric and Justin, who both work as masons in some capacity, Daigle brought the potato back to its golden state by reinforcing the existing statue and adding wire mesh and concrete alterations.

The inside was foamed to keep the statue from retaining water and moisture and to prevent future deterioration.

Ad as any artist might do, Daigle signed the name of his masonry company on the leg of the statue, parallel to a signature of the original creator.

Daigle said he feels proud of the finished product after its refurbishment was unveiled on Saturday.

"Everybody else said, well, wow, it's you know, it's the wow factor," Daigle said.

"The community just loves it."

As he drives by on the same road he took on his Harley years ago, passing the landmark is "a proud moment" for him.

"I know my grandkids are going to see this 40, 50 years from now. And hopefully they're going to bring their kids down and have a look at it and say, "Pépère did this,'" he said.

Pondering how long it will last, he said it is hard to tell, but the hope is that the smiling spud will stand tall for another 50 years.

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