By TRISHA AHMED
Associated Press/Report for America
CHANHASSEN, Minn. (AP) — The late pop superstar Prince is being honored in Minnesota as the state renames a seven-mile stretch of highway after him, one that runs past his Paisley Park home and recording studio.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz used purple ink on Tuesday to sign the bill dedicating the roadway formerly known as Minnesota Highway 5. Now, the path through in the Minneapolis suburbs of Chanhassen and Eden Prairie will be called the Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Highway.
Purple road signs will soon go up along the highway declaring the new name, paid for by Prince’s friends and fans.
The governor described Prince as a “global icon” and “creative genius.” Waltz and other lawmakers toured the cavernous rooms at Paisley Park which showcase sleek guitars and a purple piano from the artist’s career. The sights and sounds of Prince performing under shimmering lights add to the atmosphere.
After the tour, the governor said this was the “coolest bill signing” he’s ever done.
“Like so many Minnesotans, I’m just proud that Prince called Minnesota home,” Walz said, adding that the highway dedication is just “a small recognition” of the singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist.
Waltz said Prince is part of the state’s “shared cultural identity, that really does transcend generations.”
Paisley Park, where Prince lived and recorded, draws visitors from around the world to suburban Chanhassen. It’s also where Prince died on April 21, 2016, of an accidental fentanyl overdose at age 57. The 65,000-square-foot complex is now a museum run by his estate as well as an event venue and recoding studio.
Prince broke through in the late 1970s and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. His music — which includes hits like “Purple Rain,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry” and “1999” — has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Prince’s cousin, Charles Smith, called the highway dedication “a beautiful thing.”
The symbolic gesture’s official status makes it different from other tributes, Smith said. “The governor signed it and put his dot on it. It’s heavy. It’s real powerful.”
The Minnesota Senate approved the legislation 55-5 on Thursday and sent it to the governor’s desk. The bill passed the House unanimously last month on the seventh anniversary of Prince’s death.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan showed her long-time appreciation for Prince by wearing purple pants and matching earrings with a photo of the singer from his “Purple Rain” performance at the Super Bowl.
“He encouraged everybody to be themselves, to love each other, to be supportive and to have fun, right?” Flanagan said. “He was an icon.”
Flanagan said she hopes people will drive on the seven-mile stretch, turn on their favorite Prince song — possibly “Little Red Corvette” — and remember the musician as they pass his home.
Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15