ORANGE EARTH — The Jolly Green Giant is used to dressing up.
Standing 55 feet tall on Green Giant Lane in Blue Earth, the statue dons a humongous red scarf during the holiday season every year. He wears a massive American Cancer Society Relay for Life T-shirt in August. And he's even worn a black biker shirt to commemorate a motorcycle rally, which was made from eight king-size bedsheets by Cindy Lyon of the Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce and Lyon's mom.
Wednesday was the first time the Giant traded in his leafy green toga for an orange one, however. And the sight of it — as well as its mission and purpose — brought out dozens of community members also dressed in orange.
“I think I've seen every shade of orange today,” said Melissa Wildermuth, General Mills integrated marketing director. “Wearing orange unites all of us to end bullying in our communities.”
Collaboration between PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, General Mills and the city of Blue Earth resulted in Wednesday morning's ceremony, which included the unveiling of the Giant's new threads and a proclamation by Mayor Rick Scholtes that in October the city will be called Orange Earth.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Wednesday was Unity Day, which aims to bring people together and send a message of hope to end bullying in all communities and schools. Orange is the official color of the campaign, so the Green Giant will be wearing the color for several weeks.
Although easily flapping in the morning winds, the statue's “pretty cool, bold new fashion statement,” Wildermuth said, actually weighs 35 pounds and was made from four pieces of 8-foot by 24-foot fabric.
Scholtes said he hopes the Giant's new look and the city's new name will “help parents and kids speak up against bullying.”
About 40 Blue Earth Area Schools Student Council members attended the ceremony and wore orange in solidarity. Senior Council Members Ciarra Olson and Rena Zierke said while they personally don't experience a lot of bullying in school, they know it's happening, and that's why they wanted to support the event and help spread the word.
Friends Barb Pearson and Carolyn Mikkelson, who have known each other since high school in Frost, attended the event together.
Pearson was bullied in school, she said, and now she hears from her grandchildren about what goes on in their schools. So it was important to her to show support.
Both she and Mikkelson said the spectacle was a bonus.
“I think it looks great,” Mikkelson said.
Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, said parents are encouraged to visit www.raiseagiant.com and read and write open letters to their kids about bullying.