Jolly Green Giant
Blue Earth, Minnesota
Casting a long shadow from a body built by healthy vegetables, the Jolly Green Giant towers head-and-husk above most highway leviathans. At 55.5 feet tall, he is just short of Vulcan and three feet higher than Hug Me Jesus. His six-foot-long feet fill size 78 shoes.
The Giant has stood in Blue Earth since 1979, even though the headquarters of his namesake company are in Le Sueur, over 60 miles away. That's because of radio station owner Paul Hedberg. He hosted a show in Blue Earth entitled "Welcome Travelers," where he would interview people as they passed through town. He gave them Green Giant vegetables (canned in a local factory) at the end of each show, and the guests would sometimes ask, "Where's the Green Giant?"
When Hedberg learned that Interstate 90 would bypass Blue Earth, cutting off his supply of guests, he figured that a life-size Giant by the freeway might be enough to lure travelers into town.
Hedberg received approval, but no money, from the Green Giant company. The entire project was funded by Blue Earth businesses, with Hedberg himself kicking in the largest amount.
Creative Displays, forerunner of F.A.S.T. Corp., built the Giant in the summer of 1978. The rendition of his backside had to be invented on the fly, because it had never been visualized in any Green Giant advertising.
The Giant arrived in Blue Earth just in time to preside over the dedication of the Golden Stripe, which marked the meeting-point between I-90's east and west construction crews. The Giant was hung by a cable from a crane, since Hedberg hadn't yet found a spot for the statue to stand.
Unfortunately, the Golden Stripe celebration was the closest the Giant ever got to the freeway. No landowners would donate frontage property. Hedberg had to settle for a plot next to the County Fairgrounds, nearly a mile away. From that distance, at 70 mph, even a five-story-tall giant is hard to see.
Nevertheless, on July 6, 1979, the Jolly Green Giant was bolted to his eight-foot-high base, complete with a staircase so that visitors could pose for snapshots between his legs. Hedberg wanted to include a button that would boom "Ho Ho Ho!" when pushed, but a lack of funds put it on hold. The same happened with a proposed playground that would have featured a potato-and-celery slide and a swing featuring Sprout -- the Giant's sidekick -- standing on a tomato.
"Welcome Travelers" is no more, and the canning plant is no longer owned by Green Giant. But the Niblet King remains, somewhat orphaned by his parent company but beloved by his adopted town. His presence has spawned the Giant Museum and an annual "Giant Days" festival, where kids put out snacks at night and big green footprints are left in front of their homes the next morning.
Blue Earth also claims to be the birthplace of the ice cream sandwich, but with no fiberglass colossus to commemorate it, how are tourists to know?