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Finding Minnesota: The Valley Of The Jolly Green Giant

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV

BLUE EARTH, Minn. (WCCO) — There are certain commercial jingles that just stick with you.  That’s why so many people around the world know about the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.

It’s in southern Minnesota, where farmers near Le Sueur and surrounding communities produce peas so large, they came to be known as “green giants.”

Blue Earth is one of those communities where generations grew up canning Green Giant vegetables. And for more than 30 years, a 60-foot Green Giant statue has drawn thousands of visitors to the edge of town.

Now, a little farther into Blue Earth, you’ll find a lot more giants – on everything from toys, to shoes, to kites.  The Giant Museum features what’s believed to be the world’s largest collection of Green Giant memorabilia. It was all pulled together by one man, Lowell Steen, 67.

“What we have here is an inflatable giant,” said Steen, as he showed off one of his largest items, in one corner of the museum. “He’s about 10-foot-tall and when you plug him in, he inflates and stands very tall and proud.”

Steen worked at Green Giant for about 30 years, until retiring in 2007. He was a mechanic who repaired combines and corn pickers.  His collection started with a few antiques, and then blew up when eBay came along.

“I don’t know, I just started collecting and it just mushroomed,” he said.  “Actually I believe the postman was probably at my door with a package once or twice a week.”

Steen said he had his wife’s support as he built his collection.  She also supported his decision to get it out of their basement.

“We have literally over a thousand items,” he said.

His collecting days may be nearly over. It appears he’s found just about every item the company released.

The items are all in an old firehouse now, run by the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce.

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