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Green Giant museum opens

July 11, 2009
Sarah Day — Staff Writer

BLUE EARTH - Take a tour through the Green Giant Memorabilia Museum in Blue Earth and you'll find thousands of unique pieces of the company's history.

Friday marked a new point in the firm's link to Blue Earth, which had a Green Giant plant for many years that now operates as Seneca Foods. The monumental day was the grand opening of the museum. More than a hundred people visited; many of them former Green Giant employees.

Green Giant kites hang down from the ceiling. A row of aprons and T-shirts adorn a wall.

Article Photos

GREEN DAY — Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce director Shelly Greimann speaks on the radio Friday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Green Giant Memorabilia Museum in Blue Earth.

Old postcards of the canning factory are enlarged and hanging above a miniature to-scale model train - built by local resident Gordy Miller.

A mural - created by Barb Pearson - features the giant and his signature "Ho Ho Ho."

Displays upon displays of Green Giant-themed toys, pins and a gaggle of other products line shelves, denoting different eras for the company.

A looping video of how corn- and pea-packing used to work plays on.

The museum is free to visit, though a donation box is near the entrance. A guest book also can be found there, with visitors already hailing from as far away as New Zealand.

Lowell Steen, a local resident, worked for Green Giant for many years and began collecting company memorabilia in 1986. He assembled thousands of pieces and approached the Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce and the city about building a museum. He would donate his collection.

He was happy with the way the museum turned out.

"It's really super good," he said with a smile. "We just started putting it together and that's the way it turned out. I think it will bring people in and they'll remember the community because of it. ... We can share (the collection) with people instead of keeping it in our basement."

County Commissioner John Roper spoke before the official ribbon cutting. He once worked in the labeling part of the factory.

"It's something a lot of people in this community really relate to," he said.

Larry Trenary worked for Green Giant for 35 years, mostly in Blue Earth. He served on the museum committee.

"I think it's great," he said. "They've done an awful lot of work. I helped them get some of the machinery. It just keeps alive a heritage that's been here since 1926. Many people worked in the factory to go to college. In fact, that's what I did."

Colleen Gronewold, manager of Blue Earth's Seneca plant, said the museum looks wonderful.

"I know a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into this," she said. "Even though we don't produce Green Giant products out at our plant anymore, we still have green blood."

Chamber of Commerce director Shelly Greimann sees the culmination of a long project.

"We've been working on this for about four years," she said. "We're glad to bring this museum to you. It's a really big part of our heritage. Many of us worked at the factory and we have great stories."

Greimann had a surprise announcement Friday. She gave out the Chamber's "Area Ambassador Award," which is given to someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in volunteer efforts, leadership or other contributions. The award went to Steen and his wife, Vicki, who also helped with the museum.

While the museum is open, it actually is not complete. The museum sits in the old fire hall at 113 S. Nicollet St. and is using two of four fire truck bays. The other two bays store old canning factory equipment for the second phase of the museum. The equipment will be integrated through the building so the museum resembles an old canning factory.

Marcella Eckhardt and Alice Furland came to see the grand opening Friday. They both worked at Green Giant in Blue Earth.

Eckhardt came from Sherburn to work on the huskers and cutters on the long weekends. She later moved to Iowa and worked in the canteen (where workers and the public can eat) for several years, and she now lives in Blue Earth. She came to Friday's event wearing a Green Giant T-shirt from 1988.

"I'm coming back to take a closer look at (the museum) so we can take our time," she said. "There's a lot of people here. I do enjoy Green Giant stuff. It doesn't matter where you go, everybody seems to know the Green Giant statue is in Blue Earth."

Furland was employed with the company for about 20 years, working on the huskers, cutters and in the warehouse.

"I really had fun too," she said.



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