Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Raining purple as Minnesota honors Prince May 5, 2023

A mural and street signs honor Prince at Prince Garden in Henderson. This pocket park is no longer in Henderson. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

IF RAIN FELL IN COLOR, the hue would be purple here in Minnesota. Not just for the Minnesota Vikings, but also for beloved homegrown musician Prince of “Purple Rain” fame.

Now road signs bearing Prince’s name will sport his signature color, purple. Thursday the State Senate approved a bill renaming a seven-mile stretch of State Highway 5 as Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Highway. The House last month approved the same. The roadway runs past Paisley Park, Prince’s home and recording studio in Chanhassen, now open for public tours, concerts and more. Paisley Park is a museum of sorts following Prince’s untimely death from an opioid overdose in April 2016.

Dana Hanson, former Faribault resident, used a stencil to incorporate musical notes in to this painting of Prince. Notice the detail of the heart-shaped mole on the musician’s cheek. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

While I’m admittedly not a Prince fan (I’ve not listened to his music), I respect that he is an accomplished singer, songwriter and performer with a worldwide fan base. With seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, music videos, and song releases too numerous to count, Prince certainly succeeded in his profession. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Up close with Prince, in bronze. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

Ah, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. That’s not nearly as familiar to most Minnesotans as Paisley Park. But for Prince lovers, it likely will become a new pilgrimage destination. Located in New Ulm in southern Minnesota, the Hall of Fame now features a bronze statue of Prince, a memorial bench, street signs and more moved from Henderson.

The Prince Garden previously in Henderson. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

In August 2020, I photographed the outdoor Prince shrine in Henderson, location of a scene in “Purple Rain” along the nearby Minnesota River. I was surprised to learn that the Prince Garden items are now in New Ulm. Apparently there were a few issues in Henderson.

This bronze statue of Prince is now at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in New Ulm. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

Also coming to the New Ulm location is a 15-foot tall sculpture of Prince’s guitar. It was part of the Mankato CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, a temporary annual installation of outdoor art. Iowa artist Jefferson Davis created the piece from upcycled metal. The now-dissolved Prince Legacy Henderson Project purchased the guitar art via fundraising and a grant. The sculpture will be placed near the entrance to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. Located along an arterial street through New Ulm, the over-sized purple guitar is sure to draw attention.

The museum, the movie, the music, the musician. And now a stretch of roadway renamed Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Highway. I’d say it’s raining purple in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling