Ninth Step: Laura Ingalls Wilder ~Exploring Walnut Grove~

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Wrapping up our Laura road trip was a stop at Walnut Grove. We technically passed through here on the way to South Dakota with our visit to Plum Creek. However, I wanted to see the pageant in De Smet AND Walnut Grove, which meant splitting our visit to Minnesota in half. First Plum Creek on the way out and Walnut Grove and the pageant on the way back.

Walnut Grove is an interesting place for Laura history. It is where Laura history and Laura fiction intersect. Though the Ingalls only lived in Minnesota for little more than 3 years, the TV show’s setting, all nine seasons of it, took place in Walnut Grove. Despite the fact that the show was filmed on a ranch in California, Walnut Grove, Minnesota preserves much of the show’s history in the museums of the little town.

One of the first things you’ll see to let you know you’re in Walnut Grove is their water tower. Follow that off the highway and across the railroad tracks and you’re greeted by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. This is quite a big museum that spans several buildings laid out to look like a mini town. You start in the gift shop and book store. I have to say, that I was impressed by most of the gift shops and book stores at the Laura museums I visited. This one had a particularly large book selection that I enjoyed. In the museum buildings you got to see a good mix of Laura history and the TV show history.

Several weekends a year, you can see Walnut Grove’s pageant, Fragments of a Dream. It’s quite an elaborate production and worth watching! Since 1978 there had only been 2 times where the show had been rained out. The show we attended happened to have been the 3rd. We got to see half of the show before some wicked thunderstorms rolled through. The show keeps a keen eye on weather reports. They hustled a bit through the last scene before intermission then let everyone know of the impending storm(which we could guess was coming by the distant lightening and random drops of rain). We were given enough notice to make an orderly exit to our vehicles and for the show to quickly clean up and then the storm hit. Before we made it out of the parking lot it began to rain, and by the time we were on the highway to our hotel the storm was in full force and it was quite scary to drive in.  I’ve been in a lot of storms, but there isn’t anything quite like a prairie storm!

That wrapped up all the Laura related parts of our trip, and now we just had to finish the drive home. It was one of my all-time favorite trips and I’m looking forward to going again with the kids are a little bit older. Maybe next time I’ll get to see the whole show in Walnut Grove! Our next trip though, will be to visit Mansfield, MO where Laura and Almanzo lived out the rest of their days. I can’t wait!

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