He has been on display for 44 years now, rockin’ a leafy little tunic. The Jolly Green Giant just off Interstate 90 at Blue Earth, Minnesota is a plant-based superhero. He is not just another roadside attraction.
In order to figure that out, though, you’ve got to walk away from that 55-foot piece of Impossible beefcake and stroll across the parking lot to the Giant Museum and Welcome Center. I promise you, it is a bushel of fun. It is also a step back in time to a world before Whole Foods.
While the Giant Museum is ostensibly a look at one company’s contribution to a world that allows us to eat tomatoes in winter, corn in spring and peas whenever we want, which in my case is never, the youngins will see the early seeds of something that fills their lives today; branding and merch.
Filling the cases are early examples of how companies got their corporate logos into the hands and brains of tots. Green Giant toy delivery trucks and cuddly versions of the Jolly guy and his little sidekick Sprout. For the homemaker who no longer needed to grow, wash, pare and can vegetables there were garden tools, dinnerware and logo-patterned aprons.
Still, as every plant has its season, so too do the tastes of canned vegetable customers. Keeping up with what tomorrow’s market would relish meant pitching to the compost bin those past-their-freshness-date versions of the Giant. Gone but not forgotten, they are memorialized in a through-the-years look at the big man himself. Who says evolution is just a theory?
On my very slow, cross-country campervan trip last summer, I saw a number of roadside attractions. The ones worth stopping for are those that will make me smile and with a heretofore unknown fact make me look at the world in a slightly different way. They are not just another roadside attraction. They are ones I want to share with you.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.