I don’t think we knew the Jolly Green Giant was there. We certainly didn’t go to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant. I think we went to Blue Earth, MN for the free camping.
According to Wikipedia,
Blue Earth is a city in Faribault County, Minnesota, at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Blue Earth River. The population was 3,353 at the 2010 census… Interstate Highway 90 is centered on Blue Earth, as the east and west construction teams met here in 1978. As a tribute, there is a golden stripe of concrete on the interstate near Blue Earth.
At the time, there was also free camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds in Blue Earth. It was a good deal. There was potable water on site. There were restrooms on site too, with flush toilets and hot showers. There were also a limited number of campsites with electrical hookups. All of these amenities were put to use by participants of the county fair and other big events, but when nothing was happening at the Fairgrounds, the county said, Come on over and camp for free!
Many small communities throughout the Midwest offer free camping in town or county parks, or at least they did a decade ago. I guess the town and county leaders figured they had more to gain than to lose. People staying in a small town would probably buy some supplies from the local businesses. Food, ice, propane, maybe gas for the rig would all add up to a tidy bundle of money for the stores in a town. If campers stuck around for a few days or a week, they might even shop more than once. Why not let them stay on land that would otherwise be empty?
We did our part for the economy of Blue Earth, Minnesota at the Wal-Mart (which I read somewhere online isn’t a Wal-Mart any more). I don’t remember what we bought, but I’m pretty sure ice was on the list. It was summer after all, and even though we’d thought it would be cool in the northern state of Minnesota, the air was hot and humid.
At the time, we typically slept in our van in Wal-Mart parking lots. I remember the Wal-Mart in Blue Earth had signs in the parking lot basically saying, You can’t park here overnight. Go park for free at the fairgrounds right over there!
After we procured our supplies, I drove the van over to the Faribault County Fairgrounds. I believe that’s when we saw the Jolly Green Giant statue towering above everything else.
He’s life-size, I marveled.
I’m not sure a mythical creature who’s never been truly alive can actually be life-size, but according to Roadside America, he’s
55.5 feet tall [about five stories]…[and] [h]is six-foot-long feet fill size 78 shoes.
The Roadside America post also gives the history of how the Green Giant ended up in blue Earth.
The Giant has stood in Blue Earth since 1979 due to the efforts of radio station owner Paul Hedberg…The entire project was funded by Blue Earth businesses, with Hedberg himself kicking in the largest amount…Creative Displays, fiberglass statue manufacturing forerunner of F.A.S.T. Corp., built the Giant in the summer of 1978…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.
After finding a place to park in the sparsely populated camping area at the Fairgrounds and checking out the facilities (Look Pa! a gen-u-ine flush toilet!), we walked over to visit the Jolly Green Giant.
There was a Jolly Green Giant museum near the statue, but it was closed for the day. The Jolly Green Giant himself was always available to receive visitors and pose for photos, however, and I stared up at him in wonder. Did I mention that the statue is really tall?
As the Roadside America article mentioned, there are steps up to the platform the Green Giant stands on. Visitors can climb the stairs and stand between the Giant’s big feet. We each took our turn climbing up for a photo opp with the Giant. At the time, I hardly ever brought out my camera to document our activities, but I was so impressed with the Giant that I dug out my camera that day and photographed the big guy in all his green glory.
Outside the museum there were wooden cutouts of Little Green Sprout and farmers with a sort of lust for vegetables painted all over their faces. I took some photos of those folks too.
According to the Little Green Sprout’s Organics webpage,
Since 1972, Little Green Sprout has been an enthusiastic apprentice to the Green Giant. Little Green Sprout is an adventurous eater who loves to try new things and is always working on nurturing his healthy eating habits.
You can also view a timeline of Sprout’s history on the aforementioned webpage.
After looking around and taking some photos, we wandered back to our campsite and had dinner. I have no recollection of what was on the menu, but I doubt we ate any Green Giant vegetables
I’d hoped to hang around in Blue Earth for a few days. Camping was free, after all. (I think people were invited to camp at the Fairgrounds at no cost for two or three nights; after that campers were asked to pay a few bucks for each additional night they stayed.) Also, who could argue with free flush toilets and free hot showers? I really did want to visit the Jolly Green Giant Museum, and it would have been fun to check out what else Blue Earth had going on.
Alas, we packed up the next afternoon and headed out. We never stayed in one place for very long in those days. We were constantly on the move then, constantly looking for something we never did find.
If you want to visit the Jolly Green Giant, the aformentioned Roadside America article offers great directions.
If you are interested in camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds, the City of Blue Earth website gives the following information:
The campground has 4 tent sites and 9 electrical sites with full hookups. There is a fee of $20.00 per night for the electrical sites and $10.00 per night for the tent sites. The City allows a maximum of five consecutive nights of camping at the campground unless prior arrangements have been made. There is a $5.00 charge for waste tank dumping. A payment box is located at the site for your convenience.
If you have any questions about camping at the Fairgrounds, you can Contact the Blue Earth City Hall at (507) 526-7336.
I took the photos in this post.