Sue Skibinski got up at 5 a.m. Wednesday in Syracuse, N.Y., and flew to the Twin Cities.
"My soul said I need to be here," she said Wednesday afternoon outside Paisley Park on the fifth anniversary of Prince's death.
After she entered the atrium of Prince's studio complex in Chanhassen, she stood somberly behind the purple velvet ropes, looking pensively at the urn carrying the Minnesota icon's ashes.
Shaped like Paisley Park with a large bejeweled purple glyph on the front, it rested on two mirrored pedestals, surrounded by bouquets and trails of differently colored flowers, and was illuminated by purple floor lights.
Like 1,400 other fans, Skibinski was able to pay her respects, 10 at a time for 10 minutes. She has been a semiregular at Paisley Park since 2000. The day Prince died, she said she was a "complete mess," calling in sick for the only time in 27 years at a physical therapy business.
In Paisley's atrium, Skibinski, with her purple mask and Electric Fetus hoodie, contemplated silently with the other fans. Boxes of facial tissues were stationed on either side of the room. Above, two doves cowered in the corner of a giant cage on the mezzanine.
Music played more softly than any tunes Prince himself ever played in his house. First, "Adore" and eventually "Purple Rain."
Then it was time to head to Paisley's parking lot, where fans inscribed messages on white table coverings with, of course, purple Sharpies. People signed in from California and Florida and Minnesota. They drew hearts and Prince symbols and spoke from their hearts.
"Minnesota lost a bit of its soul when you left us," declared one fan.
They placed bouquets of flowers next to a giant "love symbol" statue in front of Paisley Park. On a cyclone fence at the studio, they left homemade pieces of art and purple combination locks, set to "7," one of Prince's favorite numbers. And most showed their love for Prince with their outfits, many of them a combination of purple and love symbols.
Terry Daniel, 48, of Phoenix, sported purple shoes, mask and hoodie, festooned with enamel Prince pins he makes. Making his sixth trip to Paisley, he said he found the atrium "a little shocking. I wasn't prepared for it to look like a funeral home."
A Paisley Park tour guide named Elizabeth described the atrium scene as "a very nice collection of emotions. Some people are very sad, some are sobbing, some show quiet respect. It's very respectful."
Sharon Nelson, one of Prince's five surviving siblings, visited the urn privately Tuesday evening before all the flowers were arranged.
"I felt a little emotional, a little sad," she said. "He visits us since he passed. I promised him I'd be there to straighten things out for him because he's not satisfied with the way things are."
She pointed out that in pre-pandemic times, Paisley Park had staged multiday events for fans, timed to the anniversary of his death.
For the Purple faithful, a pilgrimage to his playground was a must this year.
Having driven from Milwaukee after her nephew got off the third shift at work, Elizabeth Tatum, 47 — a Prince fan since she was 8 — said it felt good to be at his house.
"I did cry just seeing his urn," said Tatum, who stayed up all night and soon had to drive back home for her nephew to start work at midnight.
Justin Stokes, 43, of Chicago had a more leisurely experience, spending the week in the Twin Cities. On his third trip to Paisley Park just this year, he called this visit "really beautiful. I'm happy they finally did something publicly to memorialize Prince's passing."
Paisley Park has been open as a museum since October 2016 but the urn has not been on display since 2019. There were no tours Wednesday, and the merchandise shop was closed. No admission fee was charged, but the 1,400 reservations were filled up within minutes. Still, all fans were welcome to pay their respects outside the building.
For Skibinski, 49, this was a long day trip that "was all worth it." She had a 5 p.m. flight home to catch.
"I never realized someone I'd never met before could shape so much of your fabric," she said of Prince. "I'm glad Paisley did this."