LauraPalooza ’15 recap – part 1

Then the big new bell clanged in the cupola, and recess was over.  ~These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

LauraPalooza was a great success. My fun started early. Since we were going North, through Kansas, we had to stop at the site of the original little house on the prairie, right? Although everything here is replica (except the well, which has been filled in), it has a certain charm to it.

The Little House on the Prairie Museum in Kansas

The Little House on the Prairie Museum in Kansas

Then we went to De Smet for a couple days of research before the conference began. One thing I did was search records of the Congregational Church. I saw the history of the church as written by Ma, where Pa joined by letter from Walnut Grove, and Ma’s membership in the Ladies’ Aid Society, among other things.

Did you know that the bell in front of this church (now the UCC) is the bell from the original Congregational church building that Pa Ingalls helped build? This is the bell Laura and her family heard ringing.

The bell from the original Congregational Church that the Ingalls family attended.

The bell from the original Congregational Church that the Ingalls family attended.

The original building of the Congregational Church has been built onto and remodeled, but the original structure is now the sanctuary of Christian & Missionary Alliance.

church int

I also finally got a chance to check out the interior of the Heritage House B&B. The upstairs of this building was used by the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star for many years, including most of the time the Ingallses were members. I can’t help but wonder if the winding staircase was built that way specifically for the Masons, since that figures into their Fellowcraft Degree.

Winding staircase in Heritage House B&B, formerly used by the Masonic Lodge when Pa was a member

Winding staircase in Heritage House B&B, formerly used by the Masonic Lodge when Pa was a member

Then it was on to Brookings and the opening social of the conference. The social was held in the South Dakota Art Museum on the SD State University campus. This museum is home to the largest collection of Harvey Dunn works. Dunn was, of course, a nephew (by marriage) of Laura’s sister Grace. It was fun to see friends made at the last conference, though we missed a few who were unable to attend this year.

Thursday morning, the conference was off to a great start with Jim Hicks, who showed how he was able to pinpoint the exact location he believes “Grandpa and Grandma” Ingalls’ house was – the one where Laura went to the sugaring-off dance.

Then, Barb Boustead discussed Grasshopper Weather. What did it take to bring the grasshoppers, and why did they later become extinct? What part did weather play? She drew some intriguing parallels between the Rocky Mountain Locust of Pa’s day and the Monarch Butterfly today. (As a Texas Master Naturalist, I appreciate anytime someone draws attention to the natural world, and humans’ affect on it. Barb didn’t mention Bill Nye or Monsanto, but did ask questions about the role of human actions on ecosystems.)

Next, Dr. Beth Tarini discussed the probable cause of Mary’s blindness. Hint: not scarlet fever.

After a short break (snacks provided!) Laura McLemore and Judy Green discussed how they handle racism, sexism, and other uncomfortable topics in the Little House books.

Oh NO! What do you do about THIS in the Little House books? -From Little Town on the Prairie

Oh NO! What do you do about THIS in the Little House books?

I agree with them that rather than censoring, we should use these paragraphs to teach youngsters (and some not so young) why people held those views, and why we shouldn’t. “Rewriting” history by ignoring the ugly part of it is not only untruthful, but also deprives following generations of the chance to learn from it.

Amanda Baumann followed with a presentation on 19th century schools (why was spelling so important?). She acknowledged learning much from Nancy Cleaveland, who has recently updated her booklet on Laura’s school/teaching days and made it available for purchase from the LIW museum in De Smet.

Lunch was a wonderful meal, made more wonderful by the presentation of the Legacy Awards during that hour. John Miller was a recipient, for his years of in-depth research on Laura and her place in history. Sally and Larry House, who were instrumental in establishing the Wilder farm site in Malone (where Farmer Boy was set) as an historic place, also received an award.

I understand there were terrific presentations after lunch, too, but unfortunately I missed those. During that time I was in the vendor room with Prairie Sayings posters. Folks seemed to really enjoy them. And that evening was the authors and artists’ reception, where I felt privileged to join writers such as John Miller, Pamela Smith Hill, Bill Anderson, Nancy McCabe, and others, to sign copies of our books for attendees. I finally got a signed copy of My Life as Laura; I didn’t get one at the last conference and had regretted it ever since. But no more!

All the presentations were both fun and informative. They are what the conference is all about. But I must say, visiting with fellow “bonnet heads” (Lauraratti, prairie people, whatever you want to call us) is a big part of what makes LauraPalooza so fun. It was great to meet new friends, catch up with others, and chat about our favorite author – and so much more.

Catching up with friends made at the last conference.

Catching up with friends made at the last conference.

All that, just the first day. More to come…


4 responses to this post.

  1. Please email and tell me your thoughts about My Life as Laura. Is it a must read for Laura fans?
    Susan in NC


  2. Posted by lauri5567 on December 25, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Catching up on some old email – I recognize the people in that photo!


  3. […] from the rest, and set goals for the coming year. One of the highlights of the past year was LauraPalooza—including the trip back home. Taking the family to iFly at Thanksgiving was also lots of […]


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