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


Honoring Prince in Henderson September 3, 2020

This bronze statue of Prince, crafted by Brodin Studios in Kimball, Minnesota, focuses a Prince Memorial Garden in Henderson, Minnesota.


MY CONNECTION TO THE MUSICIAN Prince, of Purple Rain fame, stretches back to my stint as a news reporter for the Owatonna People’s Press. The girlfriend of my then co-worker Roy was an extra in the movie. In a crowd scene, probably, although I’m uncertain. I don’t recall her name, but she was a quiet and beautiful young woman with hair the color of corn silk.


The mural (painted by Moises Suriel) and a memorial bench were the first installations in 2018 with the statue added recently. Donations from fans primarily funded the project.


Fast forward to 36 years after the release of that 1984 movie and I found myself in Henderson, where a memorable scene from the movie was filmed on the banks of the Minnesota River. I’ve not seen the movie nor am I familiar with Prince’s music, other than “Purple Rain.” Still, I recognize his value as a musician and his worldwide popularity. He’s an important part of Minnesota’s performing arts history and a draw for those who are fans.


An overview of the Prince Park in downtown Henderson, located at 522 Main Street/Minnesota State Highway 19 and next to the busy Henderson RoadHaus, a bar, restaurant and event center (and popular with bikers).


For those reasons, I wanted to photograph the latest tribute to Prince, a lovely pocket park in the heart of historic downtown Henderson. The park focal point is a life-size bronze statue of Prince set against a backdrop mural. Purple petunias, purple benches, even a purple mailbox (with guestbook inside) frame the garden honoring Prince Rogers Nelson.


Up close with Prince, in bronze.


On the Saturday afternoon I visited, Joel King, president of Prince Legacy Henderson Project Inc., presided at the site, purple folding chair open on the sidewalk next to his vehicle. He worked as a cameraman for Graffiti Bridge (the sequel to Purple Rain), has a long credit history in filming and now lives in Henderson. He introduced himself as the man behind the Prince memorial and offered plenty of advice on photographing it. Ever the cameraman.


Another look at the Prince memorial.


I got a few photos; not as many as I wanted. I decided I would do better to return on a day when no one is around, when I can take my time photographing this homegrown Prince Garden, when Henderson isn’t teeming with people…


This billboard stands along the northbound lane of Interstate 35 in Faribault, which is about an hour from Henderson. Paisley Park is only a 40-minute drive from Henderson.


FYI: This Friday, September 4, The Relief Sessions Summer Concert Series in Burnsville honors Prince during a “Celebrating the Music of Prince! LIVE!” session from 7:30-8:45 pm by Chase & Ovation. The group bills itself as presenting the “World’s Premier Prince Tribute Show.”

TELL ME: Have you heard Chase & Ovation or seen the Prince park in Henderson or toured Prince’s home and studio at Paisley Park?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling