For Fun

Sprout’s Revenge

The Dark History of a Beloved Minnesota Roadside Attraction

Minnesota is a great state, isn’t it? I mean, if you don’t count the Twin Cities. And summer just isn’t summer without a road trip.

My wife and I recently returned from a meandering Minnesota road trip during which we passed through 18 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

We stopped by any and all roadside attractions that caught our eye.

Why? Well, restrooms for one reason, and for another, I’m doing research on these touristy landmarks, because some will appear in the Norwegian Pontoon Mafia series.

Or disappear…

Our stops included the fantastic Runestone Museum in Alexandria, the St. Urho statue in Menahga (why are Finns so weird?), the world’s largest tiger muskie statue in Nevis, and even the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove.

St. Urho statue in Menahga. This was before flyswatters were invented. 

We were, however, denied entrance to the Hewitt Historical Museum for refusing to offer a blood sacrifice to the god Moloch.

Hewitt Historical Museum. Admission price: Blood.

On the way home, we stopped in Blue Earth to see the nearly 60-foot Jolly Green Giant.

(Ho, ho, ho.)

We arrived while the actors were on lunch break, so all there was to see was the empty pedestal that says Welcome to Blue Earth. He and “Sprout” had ducked into the Dairy Queen at the north edge of the park.

TRAVEL TIP: The DQ in Blue Earth is the only franchise location to offer a novelty Brussels Blizzard, which consists of Brussels sprouts mixed in frozen textured dairy product. It’s served with a knife so you can chop off your own tongue before you drink it.

Irwin Robertson is the actor who plays the Jolly Green Giant statue. He insists that people call him “G.G.” when he’s in character, because he is a method actor of the highest calibre, which is Hollywood code for “he’s kind of an a-hole”.

Irwin Robertson demonstrating his powerful method acting as “G.G.” in Blue Earth, Minnesota.

He had a brief stint in the Fruit of the Loom advertising campaign back in the 1980s, but he had a run-in with the red apple character and “accidentally” crushed his Datsun 300ZX. 

Fruit of the Loom Guys with rare photo of Irwin Robertson as the Hardy Giant Kiwi.

You may also remember Irwin from his work in James and the Giant Peach at the Children’s Theatre. (He played the Peach.)

Irwin Robertson as The Giant Peach.

Now, I know there are some pretty rough jobs out there, but trying to look jolly all day with a four-foot-wide smile and standing still for tourists so they can take the same photos and make the same banal comments, like It’s not as big as I thought has got to be one of the worst jobs.

How difficult it must be not to shout back, “That’s what she said!” and scare them back to Missouri. Not all heroes wear capes, I guess.

Then again, what else would a 55-and-a-half foot man do other than act as the spokesmodel for a vegetable processing company? Poor guy was drummed out of the Marine Corps because of his temper, which was very short for such a tall man.

Apparently Irwin (or G.G.) manages his anger issues well enough while he’s in character, which is sunrise to sundown, seven days a week. After sundown, however, stuff happens that they don’t tell you about on the nicely painted placards. And don’t bother asking for any real info at the Museum: they all toe the company line there. For the real dirt, you have to talk to Gloria at the DQ or Bernie over at the Bomgaars.

After his traumatic experiences in the marines and in children’s theatre, Irwin resorted to drinking distilled pea liquor. As soon as the last tourists pulled out of Blue Earth, he would become a drunken maniac.

On more than one occasion he tried to have intimate relations with the drive-through window at the Dairy Queen. It happened often enough that the DQ barred the window to prevent “intrusion”, and now they can offer only very narrow to-go items.

Side rant: There’s always that one kid working the drive-through window who can’t figure out you can just turn the Dilly Bar sideways to make it fit through the bars, isn’t there?

Irwin’s violent behavior damaged his working relationship with coworkers, too, like his little side-kick, Sprout.

I had a chance to speak briefly with the actor who plays the Sprout statue, and he’s a super nice guy. His name is Russel Von Hinderloop, and originally he came to Minnesota from Denver for treatment at the Mayo Clinic for his rare leafy-green eczema disorder.

G.G. focused his drunken hijinks on poor little Sprout. More than one morning, park workers would have to pull Sprout from the drainage pipe near the parking lot after G.G. played a round of what he called “Sprout Ball”.

The “Sprout Spout” – now sealed.

It got so bad that the public works staff finally capped the drain entrance to keep G.G. from repeatedly shoving Sprout in the spout. Sprout told me that things were still pretty bad after that, and no matter how many times G.G. apologized and promised he’d quit drinking the pea liquor, things would always turn ugly after dark.

“I had to learn how to stand up for myself,” Sprout revealed. “And I figured I needed a way to humble G.G. Cut him down to size, so to speak.”

Russel “Sprout” Von Hinderloop, formerly of Denver, Colorado

Using the City of Blue Earth’s operating budget for the next fifteen years, Sprout ordered a giant wind turbine from Amazon. He tracked the shipment number and as the oversized trucks lumbered towards Blue Earth on Highway 90, Sprout taunted G.G., saying there was no way he could straddle the highway like a real giant. G.G., who had been hitting the sauce a little early that particular day, called Sprout a baby dink and marched right off to prove him wrong.

Some people recognize wind turbines as an alternate source of energy, but for those who had to drive through the bloody carnage on highway 90 after the convoy of wind turbine trucks roared between G.G.’s legs, they know that the blades of a wind turbine are even more effective at circumcising giants.

Wind turbines: alternate energy production or emasculating ball choppers?

Next time you visit, you’ll notice that under the leaf-strewn tunic of the Jolly Green Giant, G.G. is not “intact”, and the only way G.G. maintains his jolly demeanor is at the thought of kicking Sprout’s tiny ass all the way to the Spam Museum.

Sprout’s clever plan has worked pretty well, for the time being. He’s in good spirits and even told me a silly joke: Did you hear that the Jolly Green Giant’s balls got chopped off by a wind turbine?

Well, okay, it wasn’t so much a joke as it was a gleeful retelling of actual events.

Moheled Again

So life in Blue Earth, Minnesota, is pretty good for now. Under the drive-through window at the DQ hangs a sign that reads 271 days since last giant humping.

Now, there’s a t-shirt you can’t buy in the museum gift shop.

To order your commemorative t-shirt, send $52.99 to me. All proceeds go to the purchase of child labor.

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