01 August 2013

Minnesota Adventure: Walnut Grove

Prairie girls

Pioneer Mimi

Covered wagon

Covered wagon

Ingalls dugout

Plum creek

Little girls on the prairie

“Sunshine was always on the waving prairie grasses, and birds and butterflies in the sunshine. Breezes always blew there, warm and perfumed from the sun-warmed grasses."
~~On the Banks of Plum Creek
I decided I had lived in Minnesota quite long enough without visiting Walnut Grove, one of several Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead locations. I was making this decree, for some reason, last winter in front of people I'd just met at a national work meeting in Chicago. But you know what turns almost-strangers into lifelong friends? A TRIP TO WALNUT GROVE!

After months of reading Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek, plus a late night sewing dresses and a beautiful drive to Southeast Minnesota, the girls and I arrived at the destination of our pilgrimage. Walnut Grove. In July the town is all Ingalls all the time. There is a festival in the middle of town where we made corn-husk dolls, played a number of prairie-esque games, watched a Laura look-alike competition, ate cotton candy, and shopped at a little art fair. The girls and I and our new best friends from my Chicago meeting spend the whole afternoon here! Then we headed to the community center for the "Pageant Supper," a community-organized meal that consists of at least 50% pie and is spectacular. Mimi eats a whole pork burger (apparently a hamburger made from pork) so fast I think she must have dropped it on the ground and look for it under the table. Hmmmm... on the banks of Plump Creek?

After the pageant supper, we are off to the Wilder Pageant, an elaborate play put on in a cornfield outside of town. Sitting there under the starry starry sky on a summer night with my little prairie girls was a magical time.

We camp that evening on a friend from work's lawn. He has a huge row of raspberries just outside our tents and the five little prairie girls wake up fresh in the morning after a late late night and stuff themselves with raspberries, then lay together in the huge hammock. This house also has a dog, the only dog in the world, that Bella has ever not been terrified of. We were all in heaven.

After breakfast, we say good bye to all our new friends and finish off our trip just the three of us with a visit to the Walnut Grove museum and the actual dugout location on Plum Creek. We had Plum Creek to ourselves on a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday morning. We hiked through the prairie. We put our feet in Plum Creek. We try to imagine scenes from the book here. The girls race around laughing and chasing, their little prairie buckets full of dolls and snacks. It is pretty much the sweetest thing I've ever seen.

Then we are back to reality and a long drive home to visit daddy, who has a movie and popcorn waiting for us back at the old Baker homestead. This is what childhood summers are made of!

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