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New Blue Earth museum so big that it’s G I A N T

By Staff | Jul 6, 2009

Blue Earth is the home to the world’s largest statue of the Jolly Green Giant and possibly the largest collection of Giant memorabilia as well.

The public will get the opportunity to view the new Giant Museum at a ribbon cutting at 4 p.m. and a free-will dinner and grand opening set for the hours of 4:30-7:00 p.m., Friday, July 10 at Blue Earth’s Chamber of Commerce office at 113 S. Nicollet Street.

In addition to the meal featuring giant hot dogs, chips, cookies and lemonade, there will be a coloring contest and the opportunity to register for a ‘veggie’ basket.

The Chamber will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Jolly Green Giant statue beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Green Giant Park. Music, games, a trivia contest, popcorn, pop and ice cream will be available for all those in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Ag Star Home Mortgage.

As the Chamber opens the doors to the new Giant Museum, a dream has come true for Blue Earth resident Lowell Steen, who has said for years he would love to donate his Green Giant collection to the city.

Shelly Greimann, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, says Steen was good at cataloging his collection.

“He brought me a CD of his collection to view,” recalls Greimann who also visited his home a few times to see the impressive array of Giant materials.

“During our Sesquicentennial, Lowell graciously opened his home to visitors who got to view his Giant collection housed in his basement,” says Greimann.

Talks continued between Steen and Greimann about a possible new home or museum for his collection. When the fire department moved to their new building, a five-bay area was vacated adjoining the Chamber office. Greimann recalled a one-year ‘Tourism Study,’ which had been done earlier, recommending Blue Earth incorporate the Green Giant in its tourism promotions.

“The Green Giant is known as one of the top 10 advertising icons in the world,” explains Greimann. As a result of this, after many meetings, the city agreed to partner with the Chamber allowing them to create a museum utilizing Steen’s collection in the vacated fire station location.

Blue Earth has had a canning company since 1926, but it was not until 1950 the Green Giant name was given to the local business. Even though its name has changed over the years, many locals still refer to the canning company as ‘Green Giant.’

“The collection should prove to be very nostalgic for local baby-boomers as well as for those driving through Blue Earth,” says Greimann, who grew up near the Trenary kids. She recalls they had a plastic Green Giant chair shaped like a hand they liked to sit in and a transistor radio that resembled a box of corn. Incidentally, both items can be viewed at the museum.

“Green Giant was quite the promoter,” says Greimann. “Many of the items they made and we have on display were advertising and promotional tools given to their stockholders, employees, through giveaways or could be obtained by redeeming product labels.

Greimann says the name ‘Green Giant’ originated because the company’s green giant pea was so popular with the consumer that the company decided to rename their business this.

Another tidbit Greimann has discovered regarding the Jolly Green Giant is the fact he started out being white. She says he looked like a caveman. Going green was a successful move for the company and hopefully for the Blue Earth Chamber as well when they open their museum doors to their wonderland of green.

Probably the largest item currently in the museum is a blow-up giant. The smallest pieces are lapel pins and hat tacks. The most unique are the advertisements Norman Rockwell drew for the company. Only a few were made by Rockwell and they often appeared in women’smagazines during a holiday season such as Thanksgiving.

Among the many other unique items housed in the Giant Museum are: a can opener that looks like a can of niblets corn, sprout flashlights, popsicle makers, dishes, salt and pepper shakers, shirts, aprons, toys, puzzles, kites, beach towels and even Super Bowl mugs which were given to stockholders because Green Giant was one of the company sponsors for the sporting event.

A popular spot for children at the museum is the table box filled with corn, peas and trucks.

“My grandson told me we needed something to haul the vegetables in,” says a smiling Greimann, “so I added this box with trucks so children would have something ‘hands on’ to play with while their parents were looking at the other displays.

In addition to Lowell Steen, other people instrumental in readying the museum include Burdette Ensrud, Nathan Larsen, Larry Wolf, Chuck Pingry and Larry Trenary. Gordy Miller’s assistance with the train set-up, Vanessa Weyhrauch and Shelly Greimann’s mural design, and then Barb Pearson’s painting brought it all together in a neat package the Green Giant hopefully approves of.

Although Greimann says this is just the first phase of the museum, she hopes phase two will be completed within the next two years. This will include old machinery and grower charts to be housed in the remaining three bays.

The Giant Museum hours will coincide with those of the Chamber, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Volunteers are being sought to man the museum as well as the Little Red Barn near the Green Giant statue which is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Recently, the Chamber placed 24 ‘Green Giant’ banners on Blue Earth’s Main Street. This is a three-phase project in which Greimann hopes additional funds will be raised so more banners can be added to Grove Street and Highway 169.

“Many Chambers don’t run events like we do,” says Greimann. “In addition to coordinating Giant Days events, they also help coordinate the city-wide garage sales, the Holiday Sampler, Christmas decorating and scarfing of the Giant. They also will have a booth at the Faribault County Fair.

“We play a little bit different role than larger cities. We promote and want our city to grow,” she explains.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see as many Green Giant items in one place as we have in our museum,’ says Greimann, who encourages the public to come in and take a trip down memory lane.