Located in Renville County, about 95 miles due east of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the small town of Oliva (population 2400 people) has been commonly referred to as the Corn Capital of America since 1973.
It is hardly a place where world-famous entertainers can be found but on July 22, 1978 four-time Grammy winning singer, as of that time, and co-star of the movie Grease, Olivia Newton John made an appearance in Olivia, Minnesota.
She didn’t give a concert there nor was she visiting friends or relatives. Instead, she was in the town to serve as the Grand Marshal in the Corn Capital Days Parade. The small prairie town is one of the most fertile agricultural communities in Minnesota and is affectionately known as the corn capital of the United States.
Just one month after Grease opened in 1978, the Australian-born singer chartered a jet at her own expense and flew to Olivia, Minnesota. City officials were shocked that Newton-John even accepted the invitation. She allegedly because it was the most unusual request she had ever gotten and she didn’t ask for an appearance fee.
Newton John’s appearance marked the town’s combined celebration of “Corn Capital Days” and the 100th anniversary of the city’s founding. At the event, Newton John wore a bright red western shirt, blue jeans, a ten-gallon hat, and rode a dark brown Arabian horse named Rae.
In the town of about 2,500 people at the time, roughly 10,000 people showed up for the festivities. Today, visitors to Oliva, Minnesota who enter the town from the east or from west on
U. S. Highway 212 are greeted by an unmistakable welcome sign and giant corn gazebo.