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Green Giant and Le Sueur are brands of frozen and canned vegetables owned by General Mills. The mascot of Green Giant is the Jolly Green Giant.
The Minnesota Valley Canning Company was founded in 1903 in Le Sueur, Minnesota. It used the brand name "Le Sueur Z" for canned vegetables starting in 1903; "Le Sueur" by itself was first used in 1933.
The brand "Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas" was first used in 1925. The figure of a giant was introduced in 1928. The company was renamed to the Green Giant Company in 1950. The Giant made his first television appearances in 1958, voiced by such actors as Thurl Ravenscroft and (most familiarly) Elmer "Len" Dresslar Jr. Since 1973, he has had a young apprentice, "Sprout," who represents the consumer. In 1979, it merged with the Pillsbury Company, and in 2001, the group was acquired by General Mills.
In 1963, a 7" 33rp lp record,"When Pea Pickers get together" was released. Side 1 was a medley of popular country songs, while side 2 was the story of how Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Jolly Green Giant collaborated on writing his signature TV song, narrated and sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The jacket for the record gives the official "biography" of the Jolly Green Giant.
"The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant" refers to the Minnesota River valley around Le Sueur. Today, just before dropping down into the valley heading south on U.S. Route 169 an enormous wooden sign of the Jolly Green Giant, along with Sprout, is visible with the caption "Welcome to the Valley". Since the sign pokes up through the trees, it has become a source of minor controversy as it frequently startles motorists.
Sixty miles further south on Route 169, in the city of Blue Earth, Minnesota, a statue of the Jolly Green Giant is open to public view. In 1978, the town paid $43,000 to construct the 55-foot (17 m) fiberglass statue, to commemorate the linking of the east and west sections of Interstate 90. It was erected on July 6, 1979, at . The statue attracts over 10,000 visitors a year.
The statue was the idea of Paul Hedberg, who owned local radio station KBEW. During the summer Hedberg interviewed travellers going through Blue Earth on U.S. Highway 16 for his radio program "Welcome Travellers". At the end of each interview, Hedberg presented guests with a sample of Green Giant corn and peas which had been canned in the local plant. A common theme arising in interviews was a desire to "see the Green Giant."
In 1977 Hedberg contacted Thomas H. Wyman, President of Green Giant, to see if the company would allow a statue of their corporate symbol to be erected along the new Interstate 90 in Blue Earth. Wyman granted permission on the condition that funds for the project were raised locally. Hedberg approached ten local businessmen with the idea and asked for $5,000 each; within a week the $50,000 had been donated.
The statue is mounted on a pedestal and has steps so visitors may take a picture standing directly under it. Blue Earth is at the end of the Minnesota River Valley and still has a canning plant formerly owned by Green Giant that continues to can corn and peas each summer.