The singer and songwriter Prince stopped celebrating his birthday more than four decades ago, but, on what would have been his 64th birthday, the city of Minneapolis honored his legacy with a gift: Prince Rogers Nelson Way.
The commemorative street sign was unveiled on Tuesday at the corner of First Avenue and Seventh Street. A crowd decked out in purple pride gathered at noon to celebrate the Minnesota legend just a week after a roughly 100-foot mural unveiling of Prince occurred down the street.
Sharon Smith-Akinsanya and Joan Vorderbruggen led the mural and street sign project and spoke at the event along with city leaders and members of Prince’s family and friends.
“I love Minneapolis, but today and last Thursday… I haven’t felt like that in a very long time,” Smith-Akinsanya said. “I have lived here for 30 years. Prince was my boss and mentor, but I was not planning to stay here for 30 years but he said in that Prince voice, ‘you’ll never leave,’”
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Like others, Vorderbruggen described the build-up that surrounded Prince’s parties at Paisley Park. She said if there was a rumor that Prince was hosting a party, she and her friends would pile into their cars and go to Chanhassen and be welcomed with tables of treats. And although Prince did not often perform at his parties, Vorderbruggen said that wasn’t the point. He was creating a community for the metro area.
“Prince Rogers Nelson Way is not just a commemorative street name or amazing icon for Minneapolis, it is a way of being and making community and creating authentic spaces where people feel like they belong,” she said.
Mayor Jacob Frey and several Minneapolis City Council members were also present at the unveiling. Frey referenced the mural and sign unveiling as another way to bring Minneapolis residents together, something he says Prince did, too.
“That is the legacy we should be living out here in Minneapolis – Prince did every single day,” he said. “He had a way of bringing people from a thousand different perspectives together. This is a really important person to honor and someone we can all rally around.”
Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins spoke about her love of Prince and his music to the crowd. She said that he challenged ideas of gender and sexuality and led the way for artists. Jenkins also attended the legendary Paisley Park parties.
“He would always be the D.J., he never played a Prince song but kept everybody moving on the dance floor,” she said.
The crowd consisted of dedicated, life-long Prince fans from Minnesota and beyond. Decked out in Prince gear, Judy Washington and Kia Clark traveled from San Francisco for the “Prince Night” Minnesota Twins baseball game on Tuesday evening, but when they heard about the mural and sign unveiling, they said they knew they had to be there, too.
“It is wonderful and beautiful to see him memorialized this way,” Washington said. “It is a little sad when we come, just the memories, but when you get here among all the purple you become happy and forget about it.”
Clark shared she has been an avid Prince fan since she was 3 years old. She and Washington have attended nearly 100 Prince concerts together.
“This is definitely overdue; he is the local hometown hero,” Clark said. “I love him and everything he stood for.”