Pioneer dreams live on in Walnut Grove

A fledgling 1870s pioneer community magically emerges from the prairie each July, near the banks of Plum Creek. Or so it seems. The 2018 “Fragments of a Dream” cast seemingly belonged to another era, as they gathered for a group portrait on a recent summer evening.

Editor’s note – Due to flooding in the area on July 3, the Wilder Pageant has been postponed from July 6 and 7. New pageant dates are July 12, 13, 14 and July 19, 20, 21.

Wilder Pageant attendance has exceeded 300,000

By Seth Schmidt

Young girls in bonnets and long-cotton, peasant dresses will be a common sight in Walnut Grove this weekend.
It’s pageant time.
“This is a huge time of the year for us,” says Amy Ankrum curator of the Wilder Museum. Traffic at the museum during a July pageant weekend, she explains, typically increases four-fold from an ordinary summer weekend. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The Wilder Pageant launches its 41st season Friday and Saturday evenings, July 7-8. Four more performances follow the next two weekends — July 13-14, and July 20-21. Shows begin at 9 p.m.
Since 1978, the Wilder Pageant has been seen by well over 300,000 people. (Paid admissions over its first 40 years total 307,189, with children 5 and under admitted free). The pageant has a global reach, with spectators from Japan, France, Britain, Canada, and Scandinavia not uncommon. Most states in the Continental U.S. are usually represented in pageant attendance.
Advance ticket sales for the first pageant weekend stood at about 500 last week.
The pageant tells the story of the Charles and Caroline Ingalls family, settling in Walnut Grove in the mid-1870s. The script is based on Wilder’s book, “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”
Director Erin Richards looks for a good show. For those who haven’t seen the pageant in a while, she suggests, “Come out and enjoy a night under the stars and a trip to the 1800s.”
Errol Steffen and Kari Vaupel return in their leading roles as Pa and Ma Ingalls. Heidi Morgan reprises her role as a mature Laura, looking back on her life as a young pioneer girl.
Piper Ruble is cast as the precocious young Laura, with Breely Ruble in the part of Mary. Messina Lessman and Fiona Bayer play Carrie and Grace Ingalls, respectively.
The 50-member cast keeps the action moving from the Ingalls family’s 1874 arrival at Plum Creek, through the hardships of prairie fires and grasshopper plagues and family illnesses. Yet, optimism prevails as a church is built and enduring friendships and neighborly bonds are established. Horses provided by Swede and Jason Benson add extra realism to the 19th century set. A dairy animal, supplied by Bruce Maas, adds to the rural aura.
For ticket information, call 888-859-3102, or see

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.