WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WALNUT GROVE —     This year  the Wilder Pageant committee was pleased with the first weekend attendance of the Fragments of a Dream pageant. Attendees were treated to a very good first night performance with nearly ideal viewing conditions, making it much nicer for both the audience and actors.

    The pageant outperformed numbers from last year with an opening night crowd of 739, and the Saturday night attendance was 913 for a total of 1652 topping last years first weekend attendance of 1552. The year before attendance was also up by 100 more which seems to indicate a trend of higher attendance.

    Friday evening cast members were waiting back stage as usual, a bit nervous of the first performance. They were kept busy getting makeup, hair and costumes ready, while the Pageant Singers performed their usual up beat medley of old favorites and gospel tunes.

    Just before the start of the pageant, Erin Richards, in her third year as director, talked to the cast members and gave reminders about taking the stage on time, and keeping the noise backstage down during the performance. She mentioned for cast members to be careful talking while the mikes are on at all times. She commented there were times in rehearsal when she was able  to hear back stage comments during the performance. In talking with some of the cast members they felt overall the pageant performance went very well with just a couple minor glitches.          

    The audience reaction was very good and the cast was enjoying doing their parts.  It was a good experience for both audience and cast members and it helped new cast members get settled into their parts.

    After the performance Laura  fans were able to get an up close look at the set, and milled about with the cast and got autographs.

    Saturday morning the Plum Creek Muzzle Loaders, at the annual Rendezvous, gathered  for their annual black powder shoot at the Plum Creek Ranch southwest of Walnut Grove.        

    At 1:00 p.m. organizers Dave Doubler, and Leonard McLaughlin and other assistants set up a variety of targets and registered the shooters. When the shooting began there was a lot of loud noise and big puffs of black powder smoke belching from the black powder pioneer rifles.

    Doubler said “even though the rendezvous is down overall, they still had a good bunch of shooters.”    

    There was a good turnout Saturday most of the day at the Wilder Museum. Visitors browsed through the gift shop, toured the museum grounds and the buildings  within the grounds. New  this year visitors were able to go across the street and see the recently acquired Masters Hotel building. The building is currently undergoing restoration and eventually will be another addition to the  museum experience for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.

    Saturday morning the Family Festival kicked off at 11:00 a.m. with a fun lineup of activities and entertainment for visitors.    

    Aside from food and craft vendors, there also were demonstrations of black smithing; tin working; wood carving; spinning;  needle felting; and leather stamping. Children enjoyed several activities — foam art, corn scavenger hunt, beading crafts, and leather stamping. Of course there were games for them to play — Connect 4 game, Charger mini golf, bean bag toss, and checkers.

    At 12:30 there was a special Laura Ingalls Wilder birthday party  with pioneer games and crafts in the shelter house.

    At 3:00 p.m. the first of three Laura and Nellie Look Alike contests began  in the city park shelter house.

    Eleven Lauras competed in the contest, with five Nellies vying for the titles. The contestants came from several states.  After registration the contest got started. After receiving their instructions, the  little Lauras and Nellies were interviewed by Lowell Highby, and asked a question about the Ingalls’ family by Megan Ruble.  (In the Wilder Pageant, Ruble, plays Margaret Kennedy, and Highby plays Dr. Hoyt.) Also assisting them were Jacey Altermatt, who plays Laura, and Breeley Ruble, who plays Nellie. The event is supported by the Wilder Museum and Wilder Committee.

    Highby interviewed  contestants and the contestants were asked two questions, about Walnut Grove and the Laura Ingalls Wilder book On the Banks  of Plum Creek. Two Lauras and two Nellies were picked by the judges to be in the final group of  Lauras and  Nellies.

    The contestants were given  a short script they could use to act out a portion of one of the scenes from the story.

    After tallying up the scores, Melody Joy Jove was named the first 2017 Laura Look Alike, and  Sophie Schoenleben was named the Nellie Look Alike for 2017.

    Laura Look Alike winner, 10 year old Melody Joy Jove, is the daughter of Josh  and Melissa Jove of Cambridge.

    This was Melody’s first trip to Walnut Grove.  Jove says  she is enjoying her stay here, and will be going to see some of the other Wilder sites. She is looking forward to going to the pageant Saturday night. She has read all of the Wilder books, but her favorite was The  First Four Years.    

    Nellie Look Alike winner  was  Sophie Schoenleben,  of Clearwater. (We apologize as we were unable to find Sophie after the contest for an interview.)

    Of course there was plenty  of food available, from snow cones, funnel cakes, egg rolls, hamburgers , french fries, funnel cakes, coney dogs and much more.

    Craft and Flea Market vendors were selling their  wares throughout the day. There was plenty to do for young and old.

Week 2 — Family Festival Saturday July 22

    At 11:00 a.m. Saturday, the Family Festival opens and vendors set up to sell their wares at 11:00.

    Authors Hondl sisters and Marty Seifert will be available for book signings.

    Demonstrations include: Black smithing by Ron Boje; weaving by Sandi Benge; wood carving Norm Peterson; spinning Connie Peterson; leather shoes Pegeen Rozeske; tin working Karl Schmidt; and  many other  children’s crafts.

    Kids activities will include   bean bag toss, corn shelling,  corn scavenger hunt, wood carving, leather crafts, and many other children’s games and activities.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder birthday party will start at 12:30 in the park shelter.

    The Laura and Nellie Look Alike contest will begin at 3:00 p.m. with registration beginning at 1:30 p.m.

     There will also be plenty of food to eat from ice cream cones to hot dogs, and authentic Asian egg rolls. Westbrook Lions burger wagon, Sweet Kettle Madness Libbey Warner, Barb and Lloyd Goltz food wagon.

    Craft vendors will also have their wares for sale to visitors.

    Bus tours will leave from the city park during the afternoon.

    If you are looking for a laid back way to spend a Saturday afternoon head for the Family Festival at the Walnut Grove City Park, and other Wilder sites.


Other events:

    The Walnut Grove Loggers will hold their annual kids fishing derby at Lake Laura at Plum Creek Park Saturday morning starting at 10:00 a.m. The derby is for kids 12 and under, bring your own pole for lots of fun.

    Wilder Pageant Friday and Saturday evenings July 21 and 22. Community pageant suppers will be served at the Walnut Grove Community Center from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.