This morning I saddled up for a scenic and leisurely horseback ride through the trees along the banks of the Minnesota River, led by an expert trail guide. The hour-long horseback ride was filled with sounds of birds singing in the treetops and just what I needed after a long week.
Being a kid at heard, after my trail ride I stopped at the World’s Largest Candy Store. Once Jim’s Apple Farm, it’s impossible to miss the candy store for two reasons: 1) It sits directly on Hwy 169 and 2) Yellow painted picket fencing lines a full mile of highway leading up to the also brightly painted big ol’ yellow barn.
Just walking into this building should make diabetics cower in the fetal position! Thankfully I packed my will power and was just there for a peek. They sell more than 3000 varieties of candies from all over the world, and soda bottles in unique varieties. Gumballs, licorice and candies you used to see at dime stores. I can’t stress enough that this place was impossible to miss. It’s on the highway, it’s huge and its BRIGHT yellow.
Also along Hwy 169 in the Minnesota River Valley is the Jolly Green Giant. Well, I had to drive a short distance off the highway, but his Green likeness is on a billboard on Hwy 169. The Green Giant company started in the Minnesota River Valley in 1903 and was later bought out by General Mills. The 55-foot tall Jolly Green Giant statue draws 10,000 visitors a year. There’s also a shorter version of “Sprout,” the Giant’s sidekick, at the Green Giant Museum if you’re really into your green vegetables.
Interestingly, Le Sueur was home to Dr. William W. Mayo, founder of the “Mayo Clinic.” Dr. Mayo hand built his Gothic-style home in 1859 with his medical practice upstairs. In 1864 Dr. Mayo moved his family to Rochester, where he served as a surgeon for the Minnesota Civil War draft board.
Carl Cosgrove then moved into Dr. Mayo’s Le Sueur home in 1874. By coincidence, his wife was also named Louise and he would make the area famous as head of the Minnesota Valley Canning Co. Green Giant. Seven children from the second and third generations of the family were born in the home including two Green Giant Company presidents.
It’s so easy to get inspired by the history and terrain in Minnesota. I will be busy every weekend with family-friendly attractions and events while I’m here. If you can’t visit Minnesota, look for something jolly good in your area to inspire you this season. And live like someone left the gate open!