WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     Walnut Grove — Friday night as the sun sets, The Wilder Pageant committee will take you back to 1874 when the Ingalls family  arrived in Walnut Grove,  after leaving their home in the Big Woods at Pepin, Wisconsin the previous winter.

    The community of Walnut Grove will again host the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, Fragments of a Dream.

    The pageant itself might be considered an evolution of sorts. While the original script of author, James Merchant,  is  kept mainly the same, there have been many efforts in the past to research and define the characters so they are more historically accurate. It is thought that in her writing Laura changed the names of some families to avoid embarrassing them.             This year’s production features over 50 cast members. There are several new members and some veteran members portraying different roles.  The part of Caroline Ingalls will be played by Kari Vaupel for her second appearance. Laura Ingalls is played by Makenna Takle and Mary Ingalls is again played by Lynnea Asp. The Oleson family consists of  Mr. William Oleson played by Thomas Knudson, Mrs. Margaret Oleson played by Julie Danielowski, Nellie Oleson played by Josie Alvstadt, playing dual roles of Doctor Hoyt and Elias Bedal is played by Daryl Hrdlicka (9 years).



    To add continuity to the production, other veteran cast members include: Errol Steffen who will start his 25th season as Charles Ingalls, Kyle Asp as James Kennedy (9 years), Matt Coleman as Mr. Eleck Nelson (16 years),  Wendy Rogotzke as Mrs. Maria Bedal, and Heidi Morgan narrates as Old Laura Ingalls (10 years).

    While the story remains the same, the new cast members and changing of roles will bring a new perspective to the overall performance by the cast.

     Erin  Richards has a few years of assisting with the production,  and  now will be taking over the roll as the pageant’s director. Richards’ knowledge of  genealogy has been valuable in checking out original family names of some  of the characters in local cemeteries.

    Richards also is able to tap her father, Bill former and long time pageant director, when she needs technical assistance.

    At the recent Media Night the pageant directors and cast put on a run through of several scenes for the press. A cast picture was also taken before going to the run through of scenes.

    Swede Benson and his son Jason, who have been the horse handlers for the past 12 years, last year brought a new team of Belgians Dan and Doc who learned to pull the Ingalls’  wagon. Swede’s Belgian cross, Thunder,  pulls the buggies and smaller wagons. The new team of Belgians, Dan and Doc, which are housed by Swede’s son, were purchased to replace the former team.

    Some of the scenes presented were: Coming to Walnut Grove; Laura’s Party; The Town Council Meeting; The Church Social; the Prairie Fire scene.

    Of course there is much more than the Wilder Pageant. The Family Festival will be held all three weekends in the city park, featuring a variety of events and entertainment.

    Take a stroll down memory lane at Walnut Grove. If you are a visitor or a life long resident there will be plenty to see and do during the next three weekends in Walnut Grove.

“It’s a

familyaffair”

    The pageant cast and crew has always had actors and crew members who have served for many years, and often times several members of a family have participated.

    Daryl Hrdlicka has been a cast member for ten years. He actually was on hand the year before when he accompanied a couple of his children. The next year he decided, as long as he had to be there with his children, he might as well be in it himself.

    Since  that time he has played  three roles,  a dual role of  Elias Bedal and Reverend  Alden. One year he also played Dr. Hoyt. He also does several background players at times.

    His daughter Victoria started when she was six years old. In her second or third year she played the role of Carrie. She recalls, “I really didn’t like having my hair braided, I had long hair and it often tangled while they braided it. I sometimes left the braids in as long as possible, so I didn’t have it done so often.”

    Son, Jack, is in his 5th season. He has played roles as a Bedal family member, and as a member of the Kennedy family. Jack says it is fun to see how the play develops each year. The people keep doing it because they want to keep the story of  Laura Ingalls Wilder alive, and they do it as volunteers.

Son, Alex, in his third year, is a member of the Bedal Family. He enjoys being with the friends he has made, and having fun with them back stage before the pageant starts.

    Daughter, Fiona, the youngest member of the family is making her first appearance as Lucy Bedal.

    Daughter, Rhiannon, has been in the pageant nine years, but is taking a break this year.

    It is a long haul for the cast and crew members. It takes up most of June and all of July making, their summer quite short.

    Daryl says, we have to deal with a lot of discomfort with bugs, heat, and  sometimes rain. Some evenings when the humidity is high and it is very still, along with heavy costumes, makes for some very rough nights. But it is all worth it when the show comes together.

    “We all sleep in the next day after a long practice, and especially when we give performances. It is very demanding work, but it is enjoyable as a labor of love. I figured out, Victoria has been seen by over 60,000 pageant visitors during the past nine years,” said Hrdlicka.     Hrdlicka’s wife, Alicia, is very supportive, but she prefers to remain behind the scenes. Sometimes she accompanies the kids back stage.