DAYTON — Community members are invited to a dedication and ribbon cutting Friday at the newly established Green Giant signs on U.S. Highway 12 just west of this community, home for seven decades to the renowned vegetable cannery.
Attendees will meet at Blue Mountain Station, 700 Artisan Way in Dayton, at 11 a.m., where a bus will drive them to the pullout and commemorative signs.
A reception will happen afterward at Blue Mountain Station’s Co-op Market & Nursery, in Suite F. Refreshments will be provided. A brief presentation will take place on the history of the Green Giant and a collection of Green Giant memorabilia will be on display, according to a news release.
The pullout, recently constructed, features a new collection of signs and a distant view of the 300-foot-tall Green Giant outlined in painted cement blocks and solar lights on the hillside of the Warren family farm, known as the “Giant on the Hill,” according to Terry Nealey, a former Washington state representative, who pitched the idea of a pullout and historical sign to the state Department of Transportation.
Gary Lowe, who grew up in Dayton and worked as a pea harvester in the summers he was off of college, approached Nealey with several ideas for the Green Giant signs.
He wanted to “...make it (the hillside Green Giant) permanent with the patio blocks, make it the length of a football field, light it with solar lights, and put a roadside turnout sign with historical facts of the Green Giant,” he said.
Lowe came home to visit family one year and noticed that the original Green Giant that was painted on the grass was no longer there.
“It was so difficult for them to go up, and they would have to find a new spot every time, mow the lawn in that shape, and it got to complicated, they got older,” Lowe said.“They had stopped doing it because it got so exhaustive.”
He wanted to create a permanent Green Giant because he thought it was such an icon for Dayton. Green Giant was a major source of employment for so many years and represented the fertility of Dayton soil, he said.
The pullout has two information signs that tell the history of the Green Giant company in Dayton, and standing in the middle is a 5-foot-tall image of the Green Giant, Nealey said.
The historical information was collected by Duane Dunlap, Lowell Richter and Randy Mann, said Nealey.
Nealey and Lowe took on the project of creating the sign with former Green Giant employees, and the signs were designed by Signs by Sue, said Nealey.
Dayton-Columbia County Fund donated $5,000 to construct the signs and the Port of Columbia allowed the pullout on their property, said Nealey.
The Green Giant outline on the hill was semi-permanently created in 1992 by four team members of the Dayton Agriculture Research Department and was assisted by members of the community.
Randy Mann, a former employee of Green Giant who worked in the research department for 34 years until the vegetable breeding program was discontinued in Dayton, said he and his research colleagues went up on the hill with aluminum stakes and yellow plastic surveyor’s tape.
A team member in a pickup parked on the shoulder of the highway and viewed the 5-inch decal of the Green Giant while directing them with a walkie talkie, where to place the stakes, he said.
“A year later, about 100 high school kids in town volunteered to place 1,000 concrete blocks and hand over handed them down from the top of the hill to form the Green Giant outline,” he said.
Mann said his crew members maintained the Green Giant weeds, specifically yellow star thistle, for 12 years with string trimmers and pitchforks two to three times each year.
Though the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation does not recognize the “Giant on the Hill” as a historical image, Nealey hopes it will be after another 23 years of upkeep.
Lowe is very pleased that Dayton could bring the icon back.
“I have had so many people say that they see it, and they look for that, and their kids say ‘Mama, are we there yet?’ Everybody wants to see that sign!”