The best-known bottle cap in Minneapolis is on track to get re-lit

A plan to re-light the sign should get a green light next week.

Some people might say Minneapolis' Grain Belt sign is lit, but it hasn't actually been lit since 1991.

The city's finally ready to change that, though.

After exhaustive research, staff with the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission have decided a plan to re-light the landmark sign should get the OK at next week's meeting.

August Schell Brewing of New Ulm makes Grain Belt now. In fact, they've been making it since 2001 but they didn't own the sign until last year.

As soon as they got their hands on it, Schell's got the sign a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and developed a plan to illuminate it again – this time using LED lights instead of the bulbs and neon tubes that would burn out or break.

The sign is part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District so the city's preservation group has to approve the changes, which also include putting up fencing and cutting down trees to try to keep vandals from reaching it.

The sign's story

The Grain Belt sign stands on Nicollet Island in the middle of the Mississippi River. The big sign is on a big stand, so altogether it's about 100 feet tall, the Preservation Commission's documents say.

The sign was finished in 1941 and stood on top of the old Marigold Ballroom until 1950 when it was moved to its current perch alongside the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

The plan for re-lighting the sign specifies that it has to light up the same way it did in the old days. All the letters in "Grain Belt" would light up one at a time ... then "Beer" was added all at once ... the whole thing would flash ... then it starts over.

You can see it in this video, taken when the sign was re-lit for awhile in 1989.

As the Grain Belt brand changed owners and the owners went out of business, the sign kept going dark. That happened in 1975 and again in 1991, just two years after it was re-lit.

Stay tuned for details on lighting it up again, which should come sometime after next Tuesday's meeting.

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