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KARE in the Air: Jolly Green Giant sign

The iconic sign on a rise over southbound Highway 169 outside Le Sueur signals an unofficial passage into southeastern Minnesota.

LE SUEUR, Minn. — It has stood on a rise above Highway 169 in Le Sueur for decades, welcoming southbound travelers to the valley of the Jolly Green Giant. 

Our KARE in the Air drone series takes us over the sign that celebrates the giant... and his pal the Little Green Sprout... an iconic landmark that unofficially signals passage into the southeastern segment of Minnesota. 

A little digging reveals that the Green Giant was named after a particularly large variety of pea harvested and sold by the company, and became its iconic symbol in 1950. The company, which was the economic engine that drove Le Sueur and surrounding communities, originally began in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Co. and was led for its first 72 years by three generations of the Cosgrove family. 

At first the factory only produced white-style cream corn, but peas were added four years later. The larger Green Giant pea became a focus in 1925, and in 1950 the company officially adopted the name. 

The Mankato Free Press reports that at its peak, the Green Giant plant processed 2 million cases of canned corn, primarily cream style, and almost 1 million cases of peas at the peak of the Le Sueur plant's production. Hundreds of workers, many of them seasonal, pumped money into the local economy. 

RELATED: Green Giant leaves forever footprint in Le Sueur

But time, and changing tastes would eventually signal the downfall of Green Giant in Le Sueur. The plant closed in 1995 after being bought and sold in a series of acquisitions, and after a great deal of debate and foot dragging over its fate... the run-down complex was bulldozed in the spring of 2016.

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