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

10 Jul

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 the 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.

Laura, in case you’re not familiar, was born in Wisconsin, USA, in 1867 and wrote about her life – with many details and wonderful stories – in a series of children’s books. Her story is a fantastic picture of pioneer life in America.

Living as I do in Minnesota, I’m 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.

A photo from 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 Association 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: 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 or call (888)859-3102 for information.


8 Responses to “How I Became a Cruise Director and Neglected to Bring my Camera”

  1. Jen Edwards (the niece) July 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I love it when I am mentioned in your blog! HAHA!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      🙂 They recognized a group of about 6 women who were on a “Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour” – going to all the sites!

  2. hotlyspiced July 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    Little House on the Prairie used to be on on Sunday nights and I was addicted to it and would watch it every week. The stories were so good and Laura’s life on the prairie always fascinated me. How great that there is place where you can see this acted out. But bring my own porta-loo? They need to get that part sorted. xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Hee hee! They do have a restroom, it’s just totally inadequate for the large number of people! I figured that maybe you’d have seen the TV show over in your neck of the woods, so to speak! She sure is famous!

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots July 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Gretchen, Gretchen, I cannot believe this. You left your camera at home. Enough chastising. I love this pageant, although the last time I saw it a few years ago, the show was ended early due to a storm rolling in. We were caught for about an hour along a back county road in a torrential downpour and winds of about 60 mph. The car was rocking. The grass was blown flat along the side of the road. It was pitch black except for the occasional lightning and I was terrified. At least I was NOT in a covered wagon, the single consolation. That is my last memory of pageant night. But, hey, it’s the prairie, my prairie.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      I know, I know! I honestly HATE having something to carry constantly (too reminiscent of diaper bag days!), and I thought, “Well, if I can’t use it then why bring it?” That will teach me!

      It is a fun pageant, isn’t it? I guess they’ve only had to totally cancel the show three times over the 35 years. How UNfun that you had to sit through that ont he way home! I’ve been in a MN storm like that in the car once…pitch black in the middle of the afternoon…yes, very NOT fun. But yes, at least you weren’t in a wagon, that’s for sure!! Gives a person a little perspective!!

      • Minnesota Prairie Roots July 11, 2012 at 7:25 am #

        I agree. Carrying around a camera bag does get tiring. It’s heavy, gets in the way, etc. But what’s a girl to do? My pockets aren’t big enough to stash everything. And, get this, the back pockets on two of my capri pants cannot be opened even though they have buttons and pockets. I’m always fighting to stash my lens in those pockets and then I can’t. What were these fashion designers thinking? I digress.

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