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July 30, 2014
The Stars shined brightly in Walnut Grove
Eleven Little House on the Prairie stars spent three days in Walnut Grove
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Walnut Grove — For Laura Ingalls Wilder fans Walnut Grove was a mecca for fans from New York to California, and from North Dakota to Texas with many other states represented as well.
The Wilder Pageant finished its run with a total of 7,682 for all three weeks. over half that total came in the final performances this past weekend. Director Dan Wahl says the Saturday night performance was very good, and a fitting way to end the 2014 run.
Friday morning and afternoon there were three autograph sessions with long lines for each session. Dean Butler, Lucy Lee Flippen, and Sidney and Lindsay Greenbush were at the site on Sixth and Main. Charlotte Stewart, Hersha Parady, and Radames Pera were at the Wilder Museum grounds. In the city park were Alison Arngrim, Wendi Turnbaugh Lee, Brenda Turnbaugh Weatherby, and Dan McBride.
The stars visited and signed thousands of autographs each day. The only fly in the ointment came Saturday morning when a light rain started before 7:00 a.m. Museum director Amy Ankrum commented, Really! how often do we get rain when there is just a 20 percent chance predicted! But that didn’t deter the fans, some standing in line at 7:30 that morning. “I wish we had been selling umbrellas that morning,” she chuckled.
Friday afternoon the Turnbaugh twins and the Greenbush twins took center stage in the park. They talked about their parts on the show, and did a question and answer session as well.
Wendi said her favorite episode was the tornado episode, “it was the first time I was directed to do something,” she says.
“Getting nailed to the roof by Mr. Edwards was a good one for me,” said Brenda. The godsister episode was another of the Greenbush twins’ favorites, because it was the first time that both of them were on stage working together. Sidney commented, who wouldn’t have liked scaring the tar out of your sister with a great big spider.
A favorite memory of theirs was when Michael Landon would put toads or grasshoppers in his mouth, then when he talked to someone it would just fly our of his mouth!
In the episode called Ma’s Holiday Mr. Edwards made some snake stew and told them it tasted like chicken. It really was chicken stew that they ate.
In the opening of the show it showed Grace rolling down the hill. Sidney did it one time and would not do it again, so Lindsay ended up doing it.
In the episode where Grace falls down the well Sidney said that Lindsay fell in, but I was the one who got rescued.
Lindsay said her favorite character was Mr. Edwards, because he was always fun and would twirl them both around in the air. Sidney’s favorite was Karen Grassley, (Ma) both her and Wendi thought she was more like their real mother.
Being so young they were often picked up and held by the older characters on the set, they said.
Lindsay and Sidney’s father, Billy, was an actor who played parts in M.A.S.H, Gunsmoke, Chips, and many others.
Sidney said when they first started on the show the other actors could not tell them apart, but as we got older most of them could tell us apart.
They said Michael was a workaholic, but he had a lot of inner strength and treated everyone well. Kathryn McGregor was over the top as a character. In one of the episodes she gave us some candy, and we thought that was great.
One of the things they asked the Greenbush twins was - did they ever get into trouble on the set? They said, “we would play around the pond hitting each other with cat tails, and we would bring home polly wogs to our poor mom. We did throw chunks of dry ice in the pond and watch it smoke.”
Wendi’s mom was in the crowd and she told a story about one time when Michael asked Wendi to do something in one of the scenes, she told him, “NoWay Jose!” That evoked a big laugh from the crowd.
Sidney commented that Dabs Greer (Rev, Alden), and Kevin Hagen (Doc Hoyt) both were just wonderful persons.
When asked about Karen Grassley they said she is living in northern California and continues to be active in television and theater.
Brenda said her favorite Little House book was Prairie Boy, Wendi said she liked them all but Little House on the Prairie was her favorite.
Michael was a stickler for authenticity so they had to take off any thing that was not authentic to the time. Sidney said whenever a plane would fly over they had to cut the scene.
Lindsay said working with June and Johnny Cash was really fun — they were really great people — I felt very fortunate to have worked with them.
Lindsay said after being on the show for four years the cast had really become like family, so it was hard when the show ended abruptly. Nellie, Harriet and Willy were totally opposite of their characters.
Lindsay said on the set they were close friends and playmates with Mary, Laura and Nellie.
Sidney and Lindsay both had brief acting careers after Little House on the Prairie. Both of the sisters still stay involved with Little House events like the reunion in Walnut Grove. They also make appearances on national talk radio shows.
Being quite young the Turnbaugh twins auditioned a few times, but after having to explain to them why they never got the parts their mother decided it was best not to pursue careers in acting. They both went on to college and other careers, both are married and Brenda has two children.
One of the twins was asked about Merlyn Olson — off the football field he was the kindest gentlest person. Although one time a male cast member asked him what he was like on the football field? He replied, “you wouldn’t want to know me!”
During the Family festival Saturday morning Victor and Tracy French, children of Victor French, took the stage in the city park.
Victor who was a standin for his dad said when he was little, his dad had acted in many movies and television shows. Sometimes when he got home after filming a fight scene he looked pretty scary.
He said when we were watching scary movies, dad would shut off all the lights and then we would have to find where he was hiding. Most of the time he would come out of a dark place with a big growl and scare the crap out of you!
Victor said there was never any yelling at our house, he would always use practical examples to teach us the errors of our ways.
Tracy said, “I loved my father so much, and I really miss him so much.”
Against Victors advice she said I’m going to tell this, “one time when we were going somewhere with dad, the night before he must have ate a lot of beans, because he let some gas go, then he locked the windows and laughed until the smell went away.
Victor Jr. said my father wanted me to get into the business but I had terrible stage fright, so I never did it. Although he did act as a stand in for his dad in several episodes.
Their favorite episode was the pilot, and the most terrifying was when Mr. Edwards was attacked by a bear.
Tracy’s biggest let down was when she got to go on the set of Gilligan’s Island. She was very disappointed when she found out it wasn’t a real island.
At the urging of the audience they were asked to sing the song their dad sang on the show Old Dan Tucker.
Tracy is a full time mom and home schools her children. Victor Jr. said his dad always wanted to be a cartoonist, and that is where he got his desire to become an artist which he pursues today. Some of his art is available at the Wilder Museum.
Friday and Saturday night the Little House cast appeared on the stage on the Kennedy House set.
After the introductions the cast talked about their relationship with the television series, and what they are doing now.
Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle) retired seven years ago, and still does Little House events, and she has some items she makes, in the Wilder Museum.
Hersha Parady (Alice Garvey) still does some television, and commented “You are Fantastic.” It was her first appearance in Walnut Grove.
Lindsay Greenbush, has done some television, and just completed her B.A. Degree.
Sidney Greenbush, has worked in film, and theater, and is a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. It was their first appearance in Walnut Grove.
Both twins still attend Little House events around the country.
Lucy Lee Flippen (Eliza Jane Wilder) since Little House she was on two TV series, Flo and The Last Precinct along with fifty nine other credits. It was her first appearance in Walnut Grove.
Radames Pera (John Sanderson Edwards) he was on the show for three seasons. After that he made several television and film appearances. He eventually started his own company as a home theater designer.
Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh were in the program for four season.
And after that their mother suspended their acting careers. This was the first time they have been to Walnut Grove.
Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olson) has a long career after the Little House series. She has written a book called Confessions of a Prairie B (rhymes with pitch). She also does many guest appearances at various Little House events. She is the national spokesperson for Protect Children. Arngrim is no stranger here as she has made several appearances in “Walnut
Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) is another character who has been to Walnut Grove several times. He now does documentary films. He also proded the fourth season of Feherty for Golf Channel. He is very active in Little House events.
Dan McBride (Henry Riley) He also stared on several television series: Young Maverick, The Dukes of Hazard, Yellow Rose of Texas. This was his first trip to Walnut Grove.
The actors spent about an hour answering questions about the television series and telling anecdotes about the program.
Right after the introductions, Alison came out of the Olesons’ store set ranting (tongue in cheek) about her not getting an introduction. Then after she was on the set Dan McBride who also had not been introduced came down from the audience where he accused Nellie of not serving him anything good to eat in her restaurant. She then jumped down off the stage and chased him with a rubber chicken.
Monday morning when this writer stopped in at the pageant ticket office, I asked where are all the people? Carole Hovde replied emphatically – “HOME!”
Museum director Amy Ankrum said, “I am very happy the way it all turned out.”
People commented on how well it was organized. “We opened at 9:00 Saturday morning and there was a steady stream of people all day.”
Ankrum says, other than the rain Saturday morning, the only other problem was, cell phone reception was awful, and that is what we relied on for communication.
Lynn Swanson said the new stars were really pleased with the event, the Turnbaugh twins said they would come back any time they were asked.
It was nice to have so many volunteers and security people, especially when it came time to move the stars before and after their autograph sessions.
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