MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This spring will mark the third anniversary of Prince’s death.
April 21 has become a date of remembrance and a chance to celebrate his legacy.
Paisley Park opened to the public six months after Prince died, and each year, thousands of people from around the world travel to Chanhassen to pay homage to the artist and musician.
“We hear tons of stories of him showing up at one of the high schools and their bands. Being at the local coffee shops,” said Jeff Filipek, president of the Southwest Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Everywhere you turn in Chanhassen, someone has a story about their famous neighbor. The one who donned purple and won Grammy after Grammy, but could still be seen riding his bicycle around town.
“He really liked to be here because it wasn’t paparazzi following him around,” said Filipek.
Filipek became president of the chamber five days before Prince died. The following months outside of Paisley Park, he saw standstill traffic and tributes that seemed to go on forever.
“My wife and I were at a local brewery and there were some people there that came all the way from Germany to Paisley Park,” said Filipek.
When Prince’s home opened to the public six months after his death, the number of international visitors skyrocketed in Chanhassen.
“We also had some people come in from Asia, all over the world. He touched everybody musically for sure,” said Ann Margaret Young of Oak Ridge Hotel and Conference Center.
Some hotels and restaurants saw a 30 percent increase in revenue. At Oak Ridge, it was initially a 50 percent increase based on out-of-state travelers alone. Every April, and every major event at Paisley Park, they see a spike — and they’re not alone.
“We had 20 or 30 orders that were all vegetarian, and you pretty much knew that was going to Paisley Park even before it was,” said Art Stehr of Houlihan’s.
Prince and his crew used to order food from Houlihan’s in Chanhassen. These days, it’s the Prince fan clubs Stehr sees. They come from as far away as England, Australia and Russia.
“Last summer, we had about three different groups with 50 to 60 people. They showed up, took this entire room; the energy in the room was pretty incredible,” said Stehr.
It’s comparable to the Graceland effect in Memphis, Tennessee, but most of all, it’s clear that people around the world just miss Prince.
“It’s sad. It still is very sad,” said Young.
Seeing his fans pour in like Purple Rain shows his impact even after death. Though it’s not the same as seeing him around town — in a coffee shop or a classroom — or just knowing he called Chanhassen home.
“He was a good neighbor. He was quiet. We were proud of the fact that we had Prince out here,” said Stehr. “It was just nice to have him here. We miss the man.”
Businesses say they’ll also see an uptick in Paisley Park visitors during major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the upcoming Final Four.