My wife and I are on a mission to visit all the oversized local landmarks throughout Minnesota. This blog chronicles those visits and covers other related topics.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Chef

August 16, 2009 - Mankato, MN

Happy Chef

The Happy Chef restaurant in Mankato was the very first Happy Chef. It opened in 1963. At one point the Happy Chef chain grew to 56 restaurants in the Midwest. Today only 16 restaurants remain.

The giant Happy Chef statue was, and still is, an icon for the restaurants. Most of the restaurants had one. But, as I chronicled before, these statues are disappearing. The Mankato restaurant is the only one that still has a statue. Restaurant owners were instructed to destroy the statues rather than sell them, but some managed to survive. Regardless, the Happy Chef statue in any form is a rare commodity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jolly Green Giant & Sprout

August 16, 2009 - Blue Earth, MN

Jolly Green Giant

The Jolly Green Giant first appeared in the 1920's as an advertising mascot for the Blue Earth Canning Company. In 1929 the Blue Earth Canning Company became part of Minnesota Valley Canning Company in Le Sueur, MN. In 1950 they changed their name to Green Giant and merged with Pillsbury in 1979. Pillsbury was ultimately acquired by General Mills, who still owns the brand. It seems that at some point possibly six canneries were sold to Seneca Foods.

The Jolly Green Giant statue, which cost the town $43,000, was erected in 1978 in time to overlook the completion of Interstate 90 connecting Boston to Seattle. He was temporarily erected in September 1978 at a roadside rest area north of I-90 where he could watch as the interstate was completed. Miss America was there too. He was permanently put into place a mile south of the interstate on July 6, 1979. This is where he still is today.

The statue is 55 feet tall, weighs 4 tons, has a 4 foot smile and size 78 elfin slippers, and is conveniently located next to a Dairy Queen. On this day he appears ready to run in the Relay For Life... assuming he can somehow free his feet from his platform.

The idea for the statue was that of Paul Hedberg, the owner of a local radio station. He got the idea after interviewing numerous travelers for a radio program where many of them expressed an interest in seeing the Green Giant. In 1977 he contacted the Green Giant Company and with their consent and input on the design was able to have the statue built.


Outside a gas station just off of I-90 and close to the Green Giant stands this statue of Little Green Sprout. Sprout appeared in Green Giant ads beginning in 1973. This Sprout was formerly an A&W Papa Burger, which explains the root beer in his hand. I guess they decided to replace the burger with a pizza box.