How I Became a Cruise Director and Neglected to Bring my Camera

So I am learning that I ought never to trust my own memory. I was convinced – so convinced that I left my camera at home – that, when attending the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, they do not allow cameras.

I was wrong.

They do allow still cameras…just not video cameras.

So, though I’d love to give you all a guided tour of this, the 35th annual pageant, to show lovely photos of the actors and marvelous sets, I can’t.

However, I can at least explain a few things.

I, as most all American children born in the last half of the 20th century, grew up reading (and watching) Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura’s “Little House on the Prairie” books, first published in the 1930’s, quickly became part of the American persona. The television show in the ‘70’s probably helped, but even so, they were loved from the start.

Living as we do in Minnesota, we’re smack dab in the center of Laura’s world. Walnut Grove, a mere hour away, is just one of the several places one can find Laura Ingalls events. I have not toured her other sites – though my nieces have – but even the other places aren’t too far, as long as you’re willing to drive a bit.

Walnut Grove is the site of Plum Creek, Nellie Oleson, and the Ingalls’ dugout house. While Nellie isn’t around anymore, the creek and the dugout site is, though the dugout itself has long since fallen away. There’s a museum, and, during the pageant weekends, parades, look-alike contests, and other Ingalls-related activities.

Photo I found on their website. Laura and her family!

The pageant itself (located outdoors on a gentle hillside) is fun for the whole family, though know this: it will be a late night. Attendees are recommended to arrive early – 7:00ish – even though the show doesn’t begin until 9:00. This is wise. Though there will be a little “down time” as you wait, it gives ample time to get through the one-ticket-taker opening, to use the facilities, scope out your place and, if you choose “general seating” with your own chairs, to get set up and perhaps even eat a picnic dinner.

General seating is great if you have young children, as they can run around the hillside a bit if they get antsy during the show.

The Souvenir Program is a well-written historical archive of the pageant itself but, more importantly, of the Ingalls’ story. It’s full of stories and photos about the Ingalls and their friends.

This was my third time attending the pageant and I was able to go this year courtesy of the Plum Creek Library System which charters buses and brings – for free – busloads of people to the event. There were, at one person’s count, 36 buses at the event on Saturday and approximately ¾ of the people attending were there for free, courtesy of their local libraries! I think that is awesome. I was asked to be the “Cruise Director” for the Worthington and Adrian bus and I’m so glad!

One note of warning about the pageant in general: Unless you A) bring your own porta-potty or B) don’t drink anything for approximately a day before attending or C) run willy-nilly at intermission, uncaring who you knock down in the process, you will have to resign yourself to either standing in line for far too long or to missing part of the program when you or your child is in need of the facilities. Just don’t miss the first two scenes of Act 2…skip out at the end of Act 1 instead, if you must, or wait until the fire has been put out…hint, hint.

There are still two remaining weekends in the three-weekend pageant schedule for this year, so if you’re interested, there’s still time! Visit www.walnutgrove.org or call (888)859-3102 for information.

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