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July 09, 2014
Community geared up for Wilder Pageant
The next three weekends will be high lighted by the 40th reunion of the Wilder Museum and the Little House on the Prairie cast reunion
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Walnut Grove — Friday night the Ingall's family will arrive in Walnut Grove 1874, leaving their home in Pepin Wisconsin the previous winter.
The community of Walnut Grove will again host the Laura Ingall's Wilder Pageant, Fragments of a Dream for the 37th year. The pageant is expected to be a big event with the 40th reunion of the cast from Little House on the Prairie. In all, 11 of the original cast members will be making appearances the final weekend of the Pageant.
It is no coincidence that the Wilder Museum and Information Center also is celebrating their 40th reunion since the television show helped to inspire the creation of the local museum.
The pageant itself might be considered an evolution of sorts. While the original story is kept mainly the same, there have been many efforts to research and define the characters so they are historically correct.
It is thought that in her writing Laura changed the names of some families to avoid embarrassing them. In fact it was only recently discovered that the family portrayed as the Olesons were actually named Owens, and that some of their ancestors are currently living in Oregon.
This year’s production features over 55 cast members portraying 57 characters. There are several new members and some veteran members portraying different roles. The most notable role changes are Caroline Ingall's played by Kari Vaupel, Laura Ingall's played by Tara Roberts, Mary Ingall's played by Lynnea Asp, Mr. William Oleson played by Thomas Knudson, Mrs. Margaret Oleson played by Julie Danielowski, Nellie Oleson played by Lauren Frommelt, Doctor Hoyt played by Daryl Hrdlicka.
To add continuity to the production, other veteran cast members include; Errol Steffen who will start his 24th season as Charles Ingall's, Kyle Asp as James Kennedy, Matt Coleman as Mr. Eleck Nelson, Wendy Rogotzke as Mrs. Maria Bedal, and Heidi Morgan as Old Laura Ingall's.
While the story remains the same the new cast members and changing of roles will bring a new perspective to the overall performance by the cast.
Director Dan Wahl says, he feels his growing up as a native of the prairie gives him a better perspective for directing the pageant.
Wahl’s assistant, Erin Richards, has a few years of assisting with the production, and Wahl is happy to be able to tap from her experience. Richards is really into genealogy and is checking out original family names of some of the characters in local cemeteries.
Wahl says being able to talk with former director Bill Richards about the technical aspects of the production is a great help. Wahl smiled as he said, “I have him on Speed Dial.”
Wahl noted from the pageant program, “Fragments of a Dream” owes its success to the enthusiasm put into the production each year by the hundreds of volunteers from Walnut Grove and surrounding communities. Each summer, these volunteers are transformed into stagehands, actors, musicians, publicists, animal handlers, sound and lighting technicians, whose reward is the satisfaction of a job well done.
At the recent Media Night the pageant directors and cast put on a run through of several scenes for the press. A cast picture was also taken before going to the run through of scenes.
Swede Benson and his son Jason, who have been the horse handlers for the past 11 years, were on hand with a new team of Belgians to pull the Ingall's wagon, and Swedes Belgian cross Thunder that pulls the buggy’s and smaller wagons. The new team of Belgians Dan and Doc, which are housed by Swedes son, were purchased to replace the former team and were doing their first run through that night.
Director Wahl addressing the cast back stage reminded the cast to be very careful around the horses, as they could easily be spooked.
Some of the scenes presented were Coming to Walnut Grove, Laura’s party, The Town Council meeting, The Church Social, and the Prairie Fire scene.
Of course there is much more than the Wilder Pageant. The Family Festival will be held all three weekends in the city park, featuring a variety of events and entertainment.
Demonstrations and presentations include: music performance, spinning, weaving, corn husk dolls, mosaic art, leather stamping, wood carver, rug making.
Hmong Dancers from 12 noon to 12:45, Fiddlers Contest presentations from 1:00 to 1:45 from 2:15 to 3:00 and 3:45 to 4:30. Laura and Nellie Look alike contest from 3:00 to 5:00.
Kids activities: Foam art, corn scavenger hunt, bean bags, beading, corn husk dolls, leather stamping, bent wire jewelry, and mosaic art.
Be sure to check out the Minnesota Authors at various times — Connie Clare Szarke, Gordon Fredrickson, Carolyn Van Loh, Scott Thoma, Jerry Abraham, Steve Lindstrom, and Dale Swanson.
Of course there will be a variety of food vendors in the park serving a variety of foods and snacks.
Bus tours will be running through the afternoons the first and second weekends of the pageant. Tours include stops at the Laura Ingall's Monument, the Ingall's dugout site, the Wilder Pageant site, and various other sites within the community.
For a historical look at the Walnut Grove community, you will have to visit the Wilder Museum Gift Shop and Information Center. The museum features many new interesting displays.
New displays include displays of several of the television stars, Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadal), Karen Grassley (Caroline Ingall's), Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder), Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker), Kathryn McGregor (Mrs. Oleson), and of course Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson).
Another new display is the original art by Little House book series artist Garth Williams. Another area of interest is the television show display.
Take a stroll down memory lane at Walnut Grove. If you are a visitor or a life long resident there will be plenty to see and do during the next three weekends in Walnut Grove.
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