Sunday, July 26, 2009

Laura Ingalls Wilder Remembered

Dugout home on the set
Darling little girl in Plum Creek
Cousins trying out Plum Creek (this was a popular part of the bus tour)

This was the covered wagon used in the pagaent.

This past weekend six of my dear family members and I traveled to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the pageant, Fragments of a Dream, based on the book On the Banks of Plum Creek. We arrived in Walnut Grove around 4:30 Saturday and quickly bought tickets for the last bus tour of the day to see the town and surrounding area, featuring all the places Laura and her family either lived, worshipped, or were educated. We saw places such as Plum Creek, the site of their first home - a dugout. We got to hear the church bell for which pa had given his last $3, rather than buy some much needed boots for himself.

The tour guide was passionate about their famous former resident. She shared this: until the TV production of Little House on the Prairie was aired, there wasn't much for tourists to see who took the journey down US highway 14. But seeing how the chapters in her books were brought to life in these TV programs, it inspired the locals to wake up and "fix" their town. Local school children planted over 30,000 black walnut trees to bring back the resource for which their town was named. The pageant was moved from the high school to an outdoor amphitheater with marvelous sets, special effects and excellent lighting. Over time, permanent seating was installed. It is now performed each year over three weekends in July.

After the tour, some of us ate supper in a darling home-style restaurant called "Nellie's Cafe." The food was delicious! I bought some home-made cookies to eat during the pageant.

Before the sun set, we took our seats and the drama began. Live horses and a cow took the stage along with a cast of over 40 locals, many of them children. It wasn't long and the sky was dark with millions of stars overhead. I loved this setting. The play was narrated by elder Laura. The scenes moved flawlessly from one to the next. I was very impressed with the grasshopper plague, the prairie fires, and the dancing at the church social. In front of our places (we had front row seats!) while little children performed, one little boy in particular had trouble with his suspenders. We laughed and laughed at how cute he was while trying to fix his clothing without missing a step. This experience was wonderful and I would recommend it to others.


MamaD4 said...

I'm almost certain that the pageant we saw in DeSmet was "Fragments of a Dream" and I recall going to Walnut Grove at least once while we were growing up. To say that we were LHOP fans is an understatement. Some of my best memories are of my Dad reading the books to us and all of the imaginary games we played, dressing up as Laura and Mary, driving in the covered wagon, etc. I bought the entire set of books for myself from the B&N in the theater in Rochester when I really should have spent the money on groceries.

Now I'm reading them to Josiah and sometimes Annika (she has a hard time sitting still through the pictureless chapters). We're about to start "Farmer Boy".

I'm glad that you had a great time and a nice visit with Pete & Jan!

Sarita said...

Cool! Sounds like it was a lot of fun. It is neat that the TV show revived interest and created an industry in the town. I bet the new musical helped revive some recent interest too.

I remember reading the books and being confused at how different they were from the TV show. I liked them better. It was a little bit of an awakening when my mom started working at "Laura Ingalls Wilder" School and I realized that this was a real person I was reading about. (where I also worked for 2 years under the name Powderhorn. A less appropriate school to name for Laura I could not imagine. I can't even find a photo of it to link to. It is that ugly)