Not a typical prairie summer

A series of 6 Facebook Live ‘Little House’ programs will be offered next month

By Per Peterson

COVID-19 might have slowed “Fragments of a Dream” this year, but it hasn’t stopped it, not entirely.

While the typical live July performances won’t be taking place next month, lovers of all things Laura can still enjoy “Little House” in a virtual fashion.

The Wilder Pageant, which was going strong for 42 years before this summer, is hosting a free Laura event online in lieu of the live summer production “Fragments of Dream.” To satisfy both audience and devout theater folk, said Wilder Pageant Committee President Bill Richards, they have created “Laura’s Prairie Summer,” a series of six Facebook Live programs with a mix of live and recorded scenes, contests, pioneer crafts and interviews with some of the most respected authorities on the life and writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. People can find it live on Youtube or Facebook at

These celebrations of theater and Laura Ingalls will start at 7 p.m. CST and be live starting Friday, July 10. Five more episodes will follow on July 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25. There is no charge to watch, but donations to help keep the Wilder Outdoor Theater in Walnut Grove alive or to contribute to school scholarships for the young actors and actresses is encouraged as you are able.

The committee is looking at this summer as an unforeseen and unique opportunity, as programs will include new scenes, and actors and audience will be asked for feedback as the Wilder Pageant looks to develop a refreshed show for the future.

“There was some initial sadness at not being able to do the 43rd year of the production in a normal way; I haven’t thought much about this disappointment as the shift to several new scenes, rehearsals via Zoom, outdoor filming and almost zero budget replaces any pity party we might have had with enthusiasm and exhaustion,” said Richards. “There is also the excitement of trying out new material with the hope of getting audience feedback, live interviews with noted Laura authorities, and some online contests that may even happen in real time.”

Richards said the thought of new scenes has been an idea of the committee’s for a couple years. One idea that is being considered is refreshing the script and expanding it to cover more events during the family’s time in Walnut Grove, so a three-year cycle is developed for audiences who would like to have a new experience each time they go to the Wilder Outdoor Theater, Richards said.

A few scenes correlate with the Wilder Museum’s renovation of the Masters Store and Hall, including an event in the upstairs meeting room during which Laura earns a new Bible by being able to recite the central texts from the year’s sermons, said Richards.

“As we are not able to have a live audience, we are doing some work live on stage at the Peterson Campus at the WWG school in a form of readers’ theater to allow for social distance and health checks,” Richards said. “We are also going to make use of the Wilder Museum and the dugout site for some video scenes.”

Richards added that there’s also a sense of disappointment that they would not be able to host the Loose Gravel Music Festival at the Wilder Outdoor Theater.  Five noted area bluegrass bands had been contracted for a day of music and food.

“One by one, we watched as other venues shut down; when the Minnesota State Fair decided to cancel, we did also,” said Richards. “There are still many loose ends but we are already planning for August 31st of 2021 to bring a wonderful group of bluegrass musicians to the hillside at the Wilder Outdoor Theater.

Richards estimates the lack of live performances will cost the pageant somewhere around $100,000 (ticket sales and concessions). He said more than $15,000 has already been spent on advertising, equipment, box office expenses, site preparation and rentals — money that is not recoverable.

“This will be another hard financial year as was 2018 when the flood erased a third of the season,” Richards said. “We have seen a few donations and are appreciative. We also understand that many people have had months of their income cut short and are struggling to make expenses. That is certainly one of the reasons we felt that we needed to do some sort of an event. The pioneer spirit is about self-reliance, faith, family and friends. When little else is left, we rely on these solid treasures to lift our spirits and guide us to a positive future.”

Virtual pageant schedule

Friday, July 10, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode ONE: A New Home  & Dancing in the Blizzard

Saturday, July 11, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode TWO: Playing Games & Grasshoppers

Friday, July 17, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode 3: Welcome Home, The Central Truth & Lemon Pie

Saturday, July 18, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode 4: Brotherly Love, Missed Opportunity & Town Council

Friday, July 24, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode 5: Justice with No Peace & Under the Stars

Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m.

Laura’s Prairie Summer: Episode 6: Vanity Takes the Cake & Making Laura’s Dream