Give your family a real glimpse into American history of the late 1800s.
- The Pageant’s 40th Anniversary!
- 2017 Dates: July 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, 2017
• Outdoor drama based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder
• 9:00 pm live performance each night
• Performance lasts about two hours
• Tickets for the 2017 Wilder Pageant – available now!
• Ticket Office 888-859-3102
Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie books, was born in February, 1867, making this year her 150th birthday year. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum’s Pageant! Come to Walnut Grove, MN for fun and learning in Laura’s early home area.
In July of each year, since 1978, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, presents six solid days of performances by characters from Laura’s life and books.
“People interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder were coming to Walnut Grove even before the series on T.V.,” said Little House Museum director Amy Ankrum. “They read the Little House books and wanted to see the real Plum Creek and where the Ingalls family lived.”
But the only visible sign of the Ingalls’ dwelling in Walnut Grove is a depression in the ground that was once where their dugout home was on the banks of Plum Creek, one and a half miles north of the city.
In 1947, the late Harold and Della Gordon purchased the 172-acre farmland where the Charles and Caroline Ingalls family once lived from 1874-76, unaware of its historical connection. But Garth Williams, the illustrator of the second edition of “On the Banks of Plum Creek” retraced the landmarks mentioned in her book to the Gordon’s property. When word got out in the early 1960s, droves of Laura Ingalls Wilder book enthusiasts would soon be coming up their driveway and right past their home in search of those landmarks. The traffic became even heavier once the T.V. show debuted.
The Gordon’s were so overwhelmed with the many tourists knocking on their door and asking questions, that they urged the city of Walnut Grove to help. Eventually, the museum became a reality in 1974, the same year the television series made its television debut on NBC on Wednesday nights. The original museum, in which the Gordon’s were board members, was housed in the back of Bruce Thoma’s Standard gas station on Highway 14. If anything, the museum educated interested sightseers and alleviated the congestion at the Gordon home. Informational signs and storyboards were also placed at the sight of the dugout home and near other landmarks to help guide visitors.
Harold and Della’s son, Stan, and his wife Hazelle, now reside on their parents’ property, and visitors still come by the thousands each summer to explore the Ingalls landmarks. Although tourists may not be able to see everything that was once there, they can perhaps dip a toe in Plum Creek and feel the book come alive.
“There is a sense of pride here,” said Stan. “It’s interesting to have our little niche in the story. Those interested in the history at our place have been coming here so long that we’re used to it and hardly notice them anymore. Because there is so much information available now at the museum and the signs out here, that very seldom does anyone knock on our door now.” Ankrum has been with the museum for the past 15 years and has seen an abundance of expansion and improvements made.
“We now have eight buildings at the museum,” she said. “And we doubled the size of our gift shop in 2012. We’ve come a long way since the days in the back of a gas station.”
The Wilder outdoor pageant, complete with magnificent sets, will have showings in the summer of 2017 on Friday & Saturday nights as shown above.
Besides items sold in the gift shop, there will be souvenirs such as photographs and books at each of the autograph locations for people to purchase and have signed.”
For July, 2017, the Pageant’s 40th Anniversary, Walnut Grove will brace itself for another summer filled with tourists from all over the United States and other countries. Each year, the community is visited by between 10,000-15,000 people.
“We usually get people from between 30 and 40 different countries each summer,” said Ankrum. “The television series is still popular in a lot of countries.”
Many other activities are schedule for people visiting Walnut Grove during the pageant weekends. There will be a Family Festival in the park that features crafts, vendors, demonstrations and food.
The entire experience in Walnut Grove is a chance for many people to dream of the past while also enjoying the present.
Tickets for the pageant can be reserved by calling 888-859-3102. There will be 2000 seats available for each performance. For more information on the other Wilder activities, visit www.walnutgrove.org.