Unfortuanately, Mansfield and Pepin now have their Laura Days on the same weekend and since it’s roughly 14 hours of driving between them, you can do one or the other, but not both. I’ve spoken for the last 3 years at the Pepin Public Library during the event and I think it’s a good choice, you can’t listen to Pa’s original fiddle, but you can listen to a primo traditional fiddle contest and hear some great fiddle music.
Sandra Hume, editor of The Homesteader, was in Pepin on Saturday and she reinforced for me just how much of the Pepin Laura Days is family friendly and a great place for little Laura fans and their siblings.
I had already given up on was my boat ride on Lake Pepin. As I mostly want to go to take pictures and the forecast was for clouds and rain, I had given up on that early in the week. It’s on my list for next year and if you are interested I was looking at: http://www.sailpepin.com/
I did pick up a brochure, so if next year sounds sunny, I can have some new lake view photos. 😉 I arrived later than I originally planned and so I missed seeing the Latane blacksmith shop (they spend the weekend in the traditional crafts demonstration area) which had been on my list for this year.
I got into Pepin a little later than I like to on Friday for the very good reason that I stayed longer than I meant to in Burr Oak. That meant that I had to squeeze a few more things into Saturday than I liked and I missed out on a few of them for this year. One This year was the first year I actually stayed in Pepin during Laura Days.
It’s a hard weekend to get a room. Previously I’ve stayed at Anderson House in Wabasha which is a very cool historic inn and restaurant. You can check out a cat to go with your room if you wish. Each room is different with the nicer rooms being on the second floor and the cheaper ones on the third (no elevator). A photo of each room is available on their website.
Stop by for a meal if you can’t stay there and pick the right table and you can even see the Mississippi. They should offer me a deal on my next stay, Sandra Hume and Dr. Laura stayed there on my recommendation last weekend. 😉
This year I stayed in the Pepin Motel. It’s on Elm Street right in the heart of all the Laura Days action. There should be at least one room still available for next year, so get your name on the list now if you want to stay.
There is also the former Pepin Hotel which has been renovated and is now the Great River Amish Inn.
There are also many bed and breakfasts in town, and camping opportunities, which are chancey this time of year.
I got in to town so late on Friday that really all I had time to do was check-in and meet my Laura friend Linda Starbuck and her mother (who faithfully have driven up from Iowa for the past several years to help with the quilting hands-on project at the cabin). We had supper at the Pickle Factory Restaurant. Good food and reasonable prices on the lakeside. Last year the waitresses wore bonnets for Laura Days. I didn’t get back Sat. or Sun., but they were talking about doing it again.
I got an early start on Saturday and was at the Pepin Museum before it opened. Normally they open at 10 am, but generously open early on Laura Days and I was in by a quarter after 8. I dropped off my collected things for them and they really loved the Lions Club Pepin pin I’d found them and put it right in the display case. The addition they are most excited about is a set of the Ashton Drake dolls minus
Grace, that were still in their original shipping boxes. They now take pride of place in the display case as you enter the museum. They didn’t have too much else changed in the main museum, just some minor rearranging. However, several things that were previously out and available to be looked through are now under glass in the annex. They also have added a multiplex display unit (think flipping through posters at a store) and it has several articles that weren’t in the notebooks before and I hadn’t seen anywhere before. They even had one on Bill Anderson out of the Flint Journal which is almost impossible to find because their back issues were destroyed in a fire. They’ve also changed the replica school room adding benches to make up for the small number of desks. Also, in the gift shop, they’ve added a corncob doll kit.
Next up was checking in at the library and they very nicely let me make photocopies of several of items from their notebooks. Including one photo of what appears to be a very early gift shop at Mansfield. Again, I can’t strongly enough recommend that you take time to check in at Pepin’s very nice library. After all it was Pepin library board that headed up the effort to find the birthplace cottage and they have a very nice, if small display. http://www.pepinpubliclibrary.org
My program was moved up to 11 am this year and that schedule will hold next year when I present Laura Ingalls Wilder: What a Doll!. After my program Kitty Latane who wrote the book on the history of buildings in Pepin gave a great slide show that I enjoyed immensely. I especially was interested in her theory of which general store the Ingalls traded with. Also she explained that Pepin was surrounded by the Big Woods, but was actually a bit of open space known as Pepin Prairie before the town was built. She also confirmed that the building identified as the old store in the set of photos sold by Mansfield between the 1960s and the 1980s has been torn down. Come see her great photos for yourself next year on Laura Days Saturday at 1:30pm at the library.
Homesteader editor Sandra Hume and stalwart Laura fan Dr. Laura McLemore were also in Pepin for Laura Days and to go to the play at the Guthrie. We met up and I wish we’d had more time to visit. We listened to some of the Little Miss Laura contest in the rain and then headed down to the Traditional Crafts Demonstration. Kitty and her husband Tom demonstrate both days. Kitty was working on her tinware and had several hands on projects for kids to try and Tom was squaring up timbers by hand for a house he’s building. Kitty creates a new design of handmade cookie cutter every year and has put together a booklet listing them. Now it has a booklet documenting it, I had to get one this year.
Other highlights of this year included a re-enactor with the most Pa-like beard I’ve ever seen on a living person and a baby in a willow fence playpen. He was darling! Besides Kitty’s considerable efforts, the most Laura thing was a cabinet maker who says he’s been down to Mansfield to take measurements off the original lapdesk and recreated Laura’s. He only wants $250 a desk. You can buy a really nice period one for that, but his are available.
P.S. I just realized that I never mentioned the Burr Oak Director’s name, it’s Steve Luse.
UPDATE: For some reason I don’t quite understand this one part of a multiple post report on my trip to Pepin in 2008 has remained in the top 10. The other part of this same report, not so much. I’m not exactly sure what’s so special here, but I hope visitors will want to learn more about Pepin. I’ve put together a Directory of Pepin Posts including links to things like video reports from Pepin and an interview with the woodworker who builds the replicas of Laura’s lapdesks.
Some things have changed a lot since this post. I have continued going to Pepin’s Laura Days and it’s still a great event to attend. It took me a couple of years, but I have taken my boat ride on Sail Pepin and I loved it. It still can be difficult to get a place to stay during Laura Days. The Anderson House sadly closed down although they are supposed to be in the process of renovating and re-opening under new management. No word on whether the cats will be back. The Pepin Motel has a new policy. Everyone has to call after Jan. 1st to get reservations, first call, first serve. The Pepin Museum has added an addition and will redress itself for spring. Also, Steve Luse is no longer the director at Burr Oak. But despite all the changes I hope that you will continue to enjoy the post.
Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.