You may have seen his smiling green face during a road trip in southern Minnesota, waving from billboards or towering over the landscape in statue form. But where did the Jolly Green Giant come from and how did he become an iconic symbol across the state?
This veggie-shilling mascot was born right here in Minnesota over a century ago. While the brand has moved on, the Jolly Green Giant’s lasting legacy and larger-than-life presence endures.
This is the story of how an illustrated figure created to sell peas became a cherished icon of our state’s agricultural heritage.
How did the Jolly Green Giant get his start in Minnesota?
The Jolly Green Giant was born in Minnesota. His origins trace back to 1903 when the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was founded in Le Sueur, Minnesota.
In 1925, the company introduced a new variety of large, sweet peas and dubbed them “Green Giant” peas. To promote the peas, the company created a Green Giant mascot in 1928.
He started as a stooped over caveman wearing a bearskin, but was reimagined in 1936 by famed ad man Leo Burnett into the smiling, leaf-clad Jolly Green Giant we know today.
When did the Jolly Green Giant become a Minnesota icon?
The friendly face and booming “Ho, Ho, Ho” of the Jolly Green Giant quickly caught on with the public in the mid-1900s. As a result, the canning company changed its name to Green Giant Company in 1950 to match its beloved mascot.
Over the next few decades, the Jolly Green Giant starring in TV commercials and even chart-topping songs cemented his status as an icon of Minnesota’s agricultural heritage.
By the 1970s, the Jolly Green Giant towered over the state on billboards and as giant statues.
Where can you still see the Jolly Green Giant today?
While Green Giant is no longer headquartered in Minnesota, the Jolly Green Giant remains a cherished symbol across the state. A nearly 50-year-old billboard featuring the mascot still watches over drivers along Highway 169 near Le Sueur.
Standing 55.5 feet tall, a Jolly Green Giant statue erected in Blue Earth in 1979 continues to greet visitors off Interstate 90. Blue Earth is also home to the “world’s largest collection of Jolly Green Giant memorabilia” at a museum opened in 2017.
And both Blue Earth and Le Sueur host annual “Giant Days” celebrations that pay homage to the veggie-shilling icon.
So while the brand has moved on, the Jolly Green Giant’s lasting legacy and larger-than-life presence endures in Minnesota.