Hedberg returns, recalls Giant project

BLUE EARTH – Paul Hedberg has lots of memories from the 20 years he lived in Blue Earth, and he has written about them in his memoir, “The Time of My Life.”

“When I got finished doing it, a quarter of the book or more is about Blue Earth,” he said. “Characters who lived there at that time.”

And the things Hedberg did from 1963 to 1983, including founding KBEW radio station, helping set up the wayside rests while Interstate 90 was under construction, and raising money to erect the Jolly Green Giant statue.

Hedberg will sign copies of his book throughout Giant Days: from 5:30-7 p.m. Friday at the Party with the Giant at Giant Park; and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Faribault County Historical Society’s village at the Faribault County Fairgrounds. He’ll take a break to be Grand Marshal of the parade at 5 p.m. Saturday, then sign some more books at Gazebo Park.

“The big deal is the commemoration of the 35th year [of the Giant],” Hedberg said. “It just happened to coincide with when I got this book deal done, so I thought why not, let them benefit from it.”

Copies of the book cost $15 and proceeds go to the building fund for a new Chamber of Commerce structure at Giant Park.

“For everyone who buys a book, I’ll match it with $15,” Hedberg promised. “Anyone who buys a book, they’re giving $30 to the new Chamber building.”

Copies of the book also will be available at the KBEW building during the Faribault County Fair from July 22-26.

The Jolly Green Giant plays a big part in Hedberg’s memories. Blue Earth had a Green Giant plant back then and Hedberg had fun with it.

“I did a program in summer called ‘Welcome Travelers,'” he said.

Hedberg interviewed people traveling through on Highway 16. Before the interstate came through, it was the main route of travel.

“I’d give them a can of Green Giant corn and Green Giant peas,” he recalled. “They’d all say, ‘I’d like to see the Green Giant.’ I’d say, ‘You just missed him, he was walking across the road.'”

That was the seed for the idea for the statue. Hedberg was told the statue would cost $50,000, which he raised from donations, “in about one week.”

Construction started on the statue, but there was a bit of a problem.

As Tom Wyman, president of Green Giant, pointed out, everyone knew what the Giant looked like from the front because he was on so many products, but since he was a two-dimensional figure, there was no view from the back. Designers had to come up with a back view that matched the front, and a stairway was added to the pedestal so visitors could stand between his feet for pictures, Hedberg said.

“We got it done in time for the opening of the interstate in 1978.”

The Giant statue was actually first placed at one of the wayside rest areas.

“A crane picked him up and put him there,” Hedberg said. “We stored him for the winter. In the summer of 1979, we put him on his permanent pedestal, 35 years ago this summer.”

In the years since, the Giant has been a gathering place and events have centered around him, such as the annual scarfing the Giant during the Christmas holiday season.

“He’s held up pretty darn well,” Hedberg said.