I hope you enjoyed Day 1. Here is the first part of Day 2.
I got up early on Friday and redid my blog post featuring my podcasts about the event and published it. The wireless was completely unstable and fairly unusable the night before. I was staying at the Super Deluxe Inn and I’ve never had that happen before.
We had breakfast there in the hotel and this time brought along some bakery of own to add back in our room. Bakery is something their breakfast is lacking so you might want to bring along some on your next trip. You can even keep them in the refrigerator. (FYI it was pumpkin bars.)
I was hoping to head over first thing, but spent a lot of time chatting to people I know instead. The schedule seemed like things would start at 9am so I headed over about then. I was concerned about getting parked in if I drove having no idea how many people would show up. I had driven around the night before and realized it was just 3 blocks from the hotel to the event area by the Surveyor’s House. So I walked over from the hotel and that worked rather well. If you’re doing a full tour including a drive over to the Third Street House, you’ll want your car, but it was a nice walk. Here’s is the street sign for the corner you turn on to get the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society area, Olivet and 4th.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving 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. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. 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. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.
This trip I’m telling my story mostly by Instagram. If you want to see my Laura photos find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and follow. To get the details of this event check out my previous post. It also includes links to two interviews with Dean Butler.
I took a different path than I normally do this time and took I-80 to I-29. On the plus side that meant lunch at the Cracker Barrel. (Note: there is also both a Cracker Barrel and a Sonic in Sioux Falls, SD if you’re looking for good chains you don’t normally get to. Sonic is a drive in.) The bad part was almost the instant we turned on I-29 it was construction all the way until you got past Brookings, SD.
With the filling lunch and stopping for a bit in Sioux Falls we actually got to De Smet a little latter than I like to so we checked in, unloaded the car, and went to bed early so we could get an early start the next day.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving 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. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest.
It’s FINALLY here! Today starts the De Smet Event 2017 (July 14-16). Below find links to my interviews about it and other places you might want to know about. I’ve also written up summaries of the interviews if you just want to scan them instead. (Oh and by the way, I looked it up and first De Smet Event was 2005.)
Dean Butler and Alison Arngrim will start with the paid autographs at 10:30am. They will break at noon and will cut off the line ahead of the break. Everyone who buys a ticket will get signed.
They’re not going to do photos during the signing because they want people to attend the autograph session on Sunday morning with a photo session.
On Sunday they are going to do a Confession from Prairies show with Alison Arngrim. It’s the family friendly version of her show. It will be at 2pm and include a reception. Tickets are required.
Nancy Koupal is a Memorial Society board member from the 1990s. She’ll talk about the Pioneer Girl Project and Bill might jump in.
Judy Thompson is the artist behind covers of Pioneer Girl and Pioneer Girl Perspectives. She’s present and demonstrate drawing. Her original artwork will be on display. The prints of the covers are available for sale.
William T. Anderson is the main Laura authority. He’s going to talk about how he got involved with Laura and his history with De Smet.
All programs will be varied so not the same each day.
Programs will be held in a tent in the museum’s park which is besides the city park with the one-room school that serves as a hands on discovery center. The street between the Surveyors House and Gift Shop and the park will be closed.
Dean and Alison signatures will be $6 per item signed. You want six signatures, you need six tickets. There are no official limits on what to sign. If you don’t have anything you want signed, they will have photos available for sale in the gift shop.
At the pageant Dean and Alison will have a question and answer session before the pageant starting at 7pm. They will only take cash and check. The pageant starts at 8pm. There is food available on grounds and a gift shop.
Tip bring own chairs. The food is like what you would find at a high school sporting event.
They will have additional wagons on the grounds this summer. When you go through the gate. You get a prize drawing slip, a wagon riding ticket, a newspaper of the event. They will do a state roll call. The rule is you have to yell for your home state and EXTRA loud for Iowa.
New to the Memorial Society’s collection is the restored 1880s covered wagon and 3 new archival cases.
The gift shop has the Surveyors House Cookie Cutter. There is also going to be a new, updated, and extended edition of the Ingalls Family of De Smet in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the museum.
I was glad to welcome him back to talk about some of his most common “Little House” questions, what signing events are like in general, and what’s going to happen in De Smet in particular.
A note about the sound. It’s a little low so you’ll want to turn it up, but be aware there are a couple places where it will suddenly pop loud. Unfortunately the connection could have been better.
Dean Butler, a died Pepsi person, who played Almanzo on the NBC version of The Little House on the Prairie TV show. He started actin in High School in a production of Once Upon a Mattress. (Fun fact: I was also in a completely different high school production of Once Upon A Mattress – made famous by Carol Burnett – as a unnamed and unnumbered lady in waiting.)
His big break was in a movie version of Forever by Judy Blume. Michael Landon’s daughter was a fan and helped get him an audition. He was hired two weeks before graduation. Later he would appear as Moondoggie in The New Gidget and Buffy’s dad on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was associated with several iconic young woman characters and is honored to have those associations.
He thinks people like the Chicken Cinnamon episode is popular because it’s a good example of Laura’s gumption. Almanzo’s favorite food was really Liver’n’Onions.
Almanzo-Almonzo Dean has finally been convinced to pronounce it Almanzo the clincher being the recording of Laura saying his name. You can buy the recording, it’s called Laura Ingalls Wilder Speaks. Find it at any of the homesite museum giftshops online or in person. He always points out Lucy Lee Flippin was the first to pronounce it that way and he got pounded by fans for pronouncing it wrong from the beginning.
Dean attends a couple of signing events every year. He has 6 scheduled this summer. It’s important to be out there and keep the show alive to pay back the fans for their investment and support. His wife always says he’s going off for another weekend of adoration. One of the best parts of signing is the multi-generational component. He often signs books for daughter-mother-grandmother.
It’s a different signing experience at homesites and much better. Once at a mall a teenager got very aggressive and drew attention to how there really is trust between signers and signee. There is also a balance in signing how to make a connection with each person, but not to let them monopolize your time. Signing body parts doesn’t phase him, but he doesn’t like signing things people probably won’t keep like a wadded up napkin or a ratty piece of paper. He prefers something solid, like a book or a photo.
Dean’s programs are extraneous and focus on his experience with the TV show. The cast mostly gets together at appearances. He has been to the location of the exterior of the show set many times since the show ended. You can really tell where the Ingalls homestead was, but the town site is completely grown over. The last time he was there you could still find some debris from the big explosion and it took him right back to the day they watched it explode. I asked a follow up about the covered bridge with open sides. He says it’s on the Disney ranch. Besides, Little House look for that bridge on shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Remington Steele, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, NCIS, etc. Those are off the top of my head, feel free to add to the list in the comments below. Keep an eye out for it. Info on visiting the site.
Some of this information was originally published in my posts on the Beyond Little House site, but I thought it was worth republishing here with a few updates. Earlier this year the ranch made the news again when Carrie Ingalls twin Rachel Greenbush was married at the former Little House on the Prairie set in Simi Valley, California. Her husband grew up nearby and used to sneak on to the ranch to watch them shoot. They met under the tree in the “Ingalls” front yard where they were married.
Alison Arngrim, who appeared on the show as Nellie Oleson and is very generous Twittering with fans @Arngrim, shared a 2 part home movie of a visit to Simi Valley, California where much of the TV show was filmed. Arngrim, who appeared as Nellie Oleson, has generously been working with the Walnut Grove Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove to provide fans a way to get signed copies of her books through the museum’s mail order system and provides this as another thank you to fans.
While many of the buildings were destroyed in filming the final episode (deliberately so), a few such as the church, were spared and could be seen for years, however a California wild fire took out most of these remaining structures. This video does a good job of helping you understand where the structures used to be so you can compare what you see in the episodes to what is on the ground today.
Eric Carson shared this information as a comment on the original post:
“About the church, you are “partially” right . The church from the show was not destroyed in the last episode, as you know, but it was dismantled, as the little house was. But some time later the owner of the ranch decided to have another small white church built on the land, and it was built at the blind school location, near the pond. That’s the church which was burnt by the 2004 fires, along with the replicas of the Ingalls house and barn.”
One of the questions we often get is “how can I visit the movie ranch where the Little House on the Prairie NBC series was filmed?” We’ve gotten it enough that I pursued it to get the full scoop. As a proviso, this is second hand information. I haven’t been there and frankly if I was taking a Laura trip to California it would be to Pomona and then San Francisco before I even thought about going to see Simi Valley, but since there seems to be interest from other people, I checked things out and this is what I found.
There used to be many movie ranches around Hollywood where rural scenes were filmed. Now Big Sky (located in Simi Valley, California where the regular exteriors of the TV show were filmed) is about the last one left. It rents out land to movie and TV production companies to use in filming. Sometimes it’s to recreate the Old West, sometimes it’s just a modern ranch, and sometimes it’s just a good place to have a car chase away from people and sometimes it’s something else entirely. When a TV show rents ground for this it’s usually with the agreement they can build semi-permanent sets for the duration that they rent the land. These are NOT finished houses. They aren’t built to last, just to look good so they are mainly exterior walls, unfinished on the inside, and dressed to look like somebody really uses them with props. So it isn’t like these were finished houses that you saw during the LHoP episodes. Interior and some exterior sequences were shot in studios. Some specialty bits were shot elsewhere (for example much of the episode where Albert dreams they are in a classic western was shot at Old Tuscon and the Ernest Borgnine is an angel episode was shot at Donnell’s Vista), but the main farm and town exterior sequences and some of the extra exterior stuff was shot here. The production company built these shells of houses. Landon didn’t want anyone else using his creation and intended to destroy them before he left anyway so he wrote blowing up the town into the finale. So most of the sets were destroyed then. Since then wildfires have swept through the area and destroyed much of what was left. So now really it’s mostly just the bare land. Also other productions have probably used part of the land in the meantime further disrupting things. Little House in Simi Valley Part 1 includes a video that gives a good notion of what there is to see.
NOT a Tourist Attraction
Now remember that the ranch is a business, but one that makes its money renting out to film companies, NOT one that makes money through tourists. That means there is NO access at all if it’s rented out for filming on any particular day. HOWEVER, they will sometimes let you visit if you contact them ahead of time and ask and they have a day where they don’t have it rented. That set up also means that there are literally NO amenities. If they provided stuff on the land that would just mean things that the film crews would be inconvenienced to shoot around it and extra expense for the owners. That means no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no food stands, no level walkways, and no nearby medical help.
Can I Go?
It’s really up to the owners who they let in. They are under no obligation to let you in and you are under an obligation to respect private property. They really are doing you a favor if they do let you in and they reasonably expect to be paid to help cover extra staff time to be there and let you in. Since this really isn’t a regular thing they do, there don’t seem to be any set rates, you’ll have to negotiate with them. I would recommend getting all that settled before you make a trip and remember they are doing you a FAVOR and act according.
If you do get permission to go in, be prepared to be self-sufficient. Take along water, wear heavy, long pants (work pants or jeans) and hiking boots are a good idea. Be careful where you step the ground is uneven and I’ve been told by multiple people that there are rattlesnakes there.
Eric Caron added on the original post: “I made the 2 videos you posted earlier and I had the chance to visit Big Sky twice. I would add to your post that, if the owners of the ranch let any visitor in, they will take them along the path and stay with them for the time of their stay. They will take them to the Plum Creek site and Walnut Grove site, but they won’t let them alone and free to wander around. I had the chance to visit with “Nellie” and “baby Carrie”, so the guy for the ranch just said to them ” I believe you know this place better than me” and he left us alone.
The place itself is gorgeous, rolling hills with beautiful trees… It is true that nothing is left, but if like me you studied carefully each shot from each episode to know where was what (yes I am that kind of crazy guy lol!!), it will be as if everything is still in place, because the hills, the hollows and most of the trees are still there.”
Lynne commented on the original post:
” I want to recommend Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, CA. This is where they shot the majority of the train scenes for the show. The depot area has not changed very much and you can actually take a tour and ride the trains. You can also see the caboose from The Runaway Caboose episode. Just 15 min. away is Columbia where some shots for Sleepy Eye were filmed and another 45 min and you will be at Donnell’s Vista.”
Almanzo Wilder Farm – Malone/Burke, NY – July 6, 2013 Children’s Gala and Independence Day Celebration Children’s activities, artwork on display in the museum. 10:00 AM -4:00 PM Self guided tours. Reduced Admission: Adults $5.00, children 6-16 $3.00, 5 and under free; Bring a picnic lunch! Food and beverages will be available.
Laura’s Memories Pageant – Mansfield, MO – July 5-6, 2013 (One weekend only in July, other dates will continue in August and September) The evening shows are on 7:30 PM both days and the morning performance on the 6th only at 10:30 AM. http://www.laurasmemories.com/calendar-of-events
Note: The De Smet, South Dakota and Walnut Grove, Minnesota Pageants are normally on the same weekends to facilitate you attending both. However, it looks like they got thrown off this year. Also, note that De Smet still does Sunday shows and Walnut Grove doesn’t.
De Smet Pageant – De Smet, SD – July 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 2013 Little Town on the Prairie is the selection for this year the pageant starts at 8:00 PM with the gates opening at 6:00 PM. http://www.desmetpageant.org