What’s 50 feet tall, green, and can be found in Blue Earth, Minnesota? If you guessed the Jolly Green Giant, you were spot on. Towering high above the Green Giant Museum, this iconic figure casts a long shadow. He is so large that he wears size 78 shoes on his long green legs. Ever since the day he first rose above the prairie, he has been drawing a crowd. We have been familiar with the statue for decades, but only recently visited the Green Giant Museum. Here we learned the background on this unusual attraction.
Before His Time
The story of the giant actually began long before he was invented. The catchy jingle used in advertising refers to the “Valley of the Jolly Green Giant”. This is actually the Minnesota River Valley that is home to La Sueur. We learned that this city about 60 miles away was the original home of the Minnesota Valley Canning Company. Here they began canning vegetables in 1903. It would take until 1925 before the name Green Giant first appeared. The name actually refers to a rather large variety of pea.
When the salespeople for the Le Sueur brand approached other companies they discovered no one wanted to sell this new pea variety. While larger than average, they retained their tender sweetness. Minnesota Canning decided to begin selling them under their own newly created brand. It was easy to come up with a name since the company had chosen to highlight the bigger size of their peas. The iconic Green Giant began life as a wild-haired creature, which barely resembles today’s symbol. Dressed in a bearskin, it looked more like a caveman.
Here He Comes
By the mid-1930s, the giant had gained his trademark green, leafy suit. He had also gathered another word in his name and now was known as the Jolly Green Giant. The mid-1950s were the time for his first television appearance and a few years later his booming voice joined him. That was when “Ho, Ho, Ho” became his familiar tagline. We grew up hearing this phrase over and over. All of this history still didn’t explain why he migrated to Blue Earth.
The Green Daddy
Crystal’s family is from nearby Fairmont, Minnesota, so we have made the trip north many times over the past 40 years. The familiar statue, that is always drawing a crowd, was already in place by then. In fact, it was 1979 when he was brought to this city. It was a local radio station owner who made this dream come true. Paul Hedberg was the creator of a talk show called “Welcome Travelers”. It featured interviews with people passing through Blue Earth. Their reward was Green Giant canned vegetables. Often he was asked for more details about the lovable long-legged icon.
Why Blue Earth
Interstate 90 is the most direct route across southern Minnesota. When the final pathway for this freeway was completed, it passed just north of Blue Earth. Hedberg, along with other city leaders, saw an opportunity to keep drawing a crowd off of the highway. With approval from the Green Giant Company, fundraising began in earnest. It only took about a week to secure the $50,000 needed to move forward. It must have been quite a sight when the 8000 lbs. of green behemoth was lifted with a crane.
Those of you who grew up in the early 1970s may remember the introduction of Sprout. This pint-sized version of the big green guy was designed to appeal to kids. Our television shows were peppered with commercials looking at inspiring healthier food choices. On into the 1980s, Green Giant would use their green duo to teach us about growing, harvesting, and canning the best vegetables in the world. When we visited Blue Earth, we spotted a bunch of these little guys decorating streets around the city.
Drawing a Crowd
While Blue Earth is far from our visit to Minnesota’s North Shores, it is not without its own interesting history. After so many years of spotting the Jolly Green Giant on our way to and from Fairmont, it was good for us to finally get a closer look at the past. We never realized all of the steps that led to the creation and installation of this massive statue. While I haven’t spent nearly as much time in the area as Crystal and her mom, I think this museum was eye-opening for all of us. Have you ever seen the Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota?