For months, the large sign along Highway 169 welcoming travelers to the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant has been in a state of disrepair. Gone is the W in Welcome, as well as the all in Valley.
But it won’t remain that way for long.
A contingency of representatives from Le Sueur, as well as retired Green Giant employees, met with Juv Marchisio, the Green Giant brand director for B&G Foods, in the basement of Cornerstone State Bank in Le Sueur on Thursday morning, Sept. 12.
Marchisio was there to address the concerns locals have for the sign, as well as speak at the Green Giant reunion being held in Montgomery later that day.
Marchisio had good news for the assembled group: B&G will be either repairing or replacing the 17-year-old sign, and the plan is to have it completed before winter arrives.
“Whatever we do, we want to run it by some of the local townspeople here to make sure it fits with the image of the town and the history of the Green Giant here,” Marchisio said.
B&G acquired the Green Giant brand back in 2015, and also holds other national and regional brands, including B&M baked beans, Cream of Wheat, Ortega, Mrs. Dash and Polaner jams and jellies, to name a few.
The B&G brand itself dates back to 1889, when the Bloch and Guggenheimer families, upon immigrating to America for a better life, began selling pickles on the streets of Manhattan. B&G Foods was formed in 1996, and since then has acquired more than 40 brands.
“We are very proud of the heritage of the company, as well as what we have been able to accomplish over time,” Marchisio said.
Marchisio said B&G are “experts in preserving the equity of brands,” and the company understands the Giant’s importance as a brand icon.
GREEN GIANT HISTORY
Although the Green Giant plant in Le Sueur closed in 1995, the history is still an important part for many residents.
The Minnesota Valley Canning Company was formed in 1903 and sold white cream style corn. After four years, canned peas were added to the lineup, and in 1925, the Green Giant brand of peas were added.
In 1950, the company name was changed and Green Giant was officially born. In 1979, the company was sold to Pillsbury, and the drawn down in Le Sueur officially started.
Le Sueur resident Randy Baum is one of many retired Green Giant/Pillsbury employees who want to see the history in Le Sueur remain. He started working for Green Giant in 1967 at the Glencoe facility and worked there for three years before he was transferred to the company’s facility in Fruitland, Maryland.
After 11 years in Maryland, he returned to Minnesota and settled in Le Sueur. Eventually, his position, like many others, were transferred to Minneapolis.
“It was a big downer because it affected a lot of employees, affected a lot of volunteerism in the community,” Baum said.
One way Baum is trying to keep history fresh is by sharing the Green Giant story with the next generation. He and Jerry Tiede, another retired Green Giant employee living in Le Sueur, shared their story with kids at St. Anne’s School. To their surprise, the children had learned the Green Giant jingle and were able to sing it to them.
“It is an illustration of people still realizing the value of Green Giant and these students were being influenced as to their preference in vegetables,” Baum said.
Tiede added that he is hoping to see more displays in town with Green Giant history so it is not forgotten.
“If we can end up with the sign — this is the entrance of the Jolly Green Giant — we will be pretty pleased,” Tiede told Marchisio.