Experience the prairie at Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in De Smet

By Plainsman Staff
Posted 7/6/24

This year's pageant features new experience

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Experience the prairie at Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in De Smet


Experience the prairie like never before at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in De Smet. This theater on the prairie has been a part of the De Smet community since 1971.

This year, “Prairie Girl: Laura’s Dakota Stories” will be presented tonight, July 6, Sunday, July 7, and July 12, 13 and 14, and July 19, 20 and 21. Gates open at 6 p.m. with the performance at 8 p.m. Live music will be presented prior to each show. The GOGO Burritos Food Truck will be at the pageant grounds each evening, as well as at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center for lunch.

Debuting in summer 2024, “Prairie Girl: Laura’s Dakota Stories” is the first of three installments in a new series of summer theatrical productions. Join Laura and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, as they craft Laura’s childhood memories of the founding of De Smet and homesteading with her family into the beloved Little House books. “Prairie Girl: Laura’s Dakota Stories” follow the Ingalls family’s move to Dakota Territory to help build the railroad. They enjoy winter in the Surveyor’s House as Laura treasures the lighthearted days of childhood.

Today, July 6, at 3 p.m., a tour of the De Smet Cemetery will be held, while on the grounds, Fiddlers of South Dakota will give a musical performance at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 7, begins with a pancake feed hosted by the American Legion from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a Sunday service at 10 a.m. The Oak Lake String Band will provide musical entertainment at 6:30 p.m. at the pageant site.

Special events on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, will celebrate writers, authors, researchers and historians who make sharing Laura’s history and South Dakota heritage possible.

Saturday, July 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., several presentations are planned, all at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center.

• Cindy Wilson, 9:30 a.m. — “The Railroad and the Ingalls Family: from Tracy to De Smet”

Cindy Wilson is the author of two books: newly released, “We Suffered Much: Charles Wood Irish” and the “Dakota Territory Railroad Survey of 1879 - 1881 and The Beautiful Snow: The Ingalls Family, The Railroads, and the Hard Winter of 1880-1881” released in 2020. “We Suffered Much” was recently selected as the winner in the Regional Non-Fiction: Midwest category by the National Indie Excellence Awards (NIEA). Like many others, Cindy fell in love with the Little House books in third grade, “The Long Winter” being her favorite. Cindy is passionate about history and enchanted by the prairie landscape.

• Rick Mills, 10:30 a.m. — “Little Trains Across the Prairie - 1879 to 2024”

Rick has been sharing his knowledge and love of South Dakota railroad history for over 40 years. Rick serves as the Curator and Museum Director, and is a founder of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum located in Hill City. If you are headed west on your vacation, he highly recommends a visit!

• Nancy Tystad Koupal, 11:30 a.m. — “Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane on the Path into Fiction”

Nancy is the director and editor-in-chief of the Pioneer Girl Project, which allows millions of people to better understand the origin and development of Laura’s books. Nancy founded the South Dakota State Historical Society Press in 1997 served as director until 2021. Her efforts built the press into a respected, award-winning, publisher showcasing South Dakota history.

Also on Saturday, July 13, a South Dakota Author Spotlight will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m., where you can meet authors and writers from South Dakota.

Following their presentation, an “On the Page” question and answer session will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. with the featured guests. From 2 to 3 p.m., a discussion will be held moderated by South Dakota State Historical Society Press Director, Dedra Birzer. The featured authors will share their perspectives writing and presenting history in books, theater and museums.

A tour of the De Smet Cemetery will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 13. At the pageant grounds that evening, old fashioned children’s activities will be led by Julie Frances Miller from 6 to 8 p.m., with Fiddlers of South Dakota performing at 6:30 p.m.