Town rolls out purple carpet for Prince fans

HENDERSON, Minn. — It wasn't a purple rain, just a pounding rain that fell on Henderson during their Celebration of Prince on Saturday.

The heavy rains lifted long enough in the early afternoon for Prince devotees to go outside the Henderson Events Center to dedicate a bench and mural of Prince while releasing two white doves.

Inside, Prince fans from the Twin Cities, across the country and overseas paid tribute to Prince, who died in April of 2016 and who would have been 60 this week. Several scenes from Prince's movie "Purple Rain" were filmed near Henderson.

Lynne Valento, dressed in layers of multi-hued purple, came from St. Paul to take in the festivities.

A big fan?

"I've been to Paisley Park like six times. I have a room in my house I converted into a Prince room," she said as she paged through photos on her phone of a museum-quality room filled with purple guitars and all forms of Prince memorabilia.

Valento, born just a couple of years after Prince, has been a fan since she was just out of high school.

"It's just awesome," she said of the mural painted by Moises Suriel. While in town she also stopped at the liquor store to buy some "Purple Rain Wine."

Prince's cousin Charles "Chazz" Smith, who was Prince's first drummer, starting when they were kids, helped dedicate the mural and bench and visited with fans.

A lifetime Minnesotan who lives near Paisley Park, Smith had to admit he'd never even heard of the small town of Henderson until recently.

"I've seen the love for Prince around the country and the world and to see it in even small towns in Minnesota is just mind-boggling."

Andrew Kistner, originally from Arlington, was selling his book on his years with Prince.

"I pushed him around on a box cart on stage before a concert once," said Kistner, telling one of many stories of his interactions with the musician.

Kistner worked for a lawn service in high school and college, and one of the company's accounts was Prince's home and Paisley Park. The company's owner became the groundskeeper for Paisley Park and asked Kistner to join him. Kistner worked for Prince from 1996 to 2001 doing a variety of things.

"I didn't even know who he was. I didn't know he played guitar," Kistner said.

"I did everything from touring and setting up stages to making him coffee. He was very challenging to work for. The hours were so long. You could come in at 10 a.m. and be there 'til 5 a.m. the next day. I could do it then but I couldn't do it now."

His book, "That One Time with Prince," is available on Amazon.

Henderson has become a Prince fan destination thanks to efforts of local resident Joel King and others. King was a camera operator on one of Prince's films and raised money to create the Prince Legacy Henderson Project.

Beside installing the commemorative Prince bench and mural, a road in town was given the honorary name "Purple Rain Road" during the three days of festivities.

"We gave tours of the trestle Friday," King said of the trestle that appeared in the movie. "We did eight bus tours."

Norvis Long-Parker, of Baltimore, Maryland, and Cinzia Inzinna of Rochester, New York, helped King organize the event.

"I'm a huge Prince fan and came to Minnesota last year to see Paisley Park," Inzinna said. "I came to Henderson because I knew scenes were shot here and I met a lot of the local people and met Joel."

She said they are planning on making the Prince celebration an annual event in Henderson.

A guest book showed fans came from far and wide, including Great Britain, Australia, Texas, and the East and West coasts.

"A lot of people came to Minnesota because it was Prince's birthday," Inzinna said.