I am just back from my first-ever LauraPalooza, sponsored by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association (LIWLRA) and held this year in Onalaska, Wisconsin, just over an hour away from Pepin, Wisconsin. The people involved in planning and implementing the conference, including but not limited to LIWLRA president Barbara Mayes Boustead, vice-president Patti Collins, and conference co-chairs Karen Pearce and Melanie Stringer, did an outstanding job. My fellow keynote speakers Bill Anderson, Caroline Fraser, and John Miller all provided meaty portions of Wilder scholarship and lore, even though the presence of the film crew for the American Masters series could be intimidating at times.
The level of presentation throughout the event was outstanding, from fiddler Mary Pat Kleven, who shared her music and her understanding of midwestern fiddling, to Cindy Wilson, whose research in the Chicago & North Western Historical Society archives illuminated the railroad’s snow-moving activities during the winter of 1880–1881. Discussion of the life of Grace Ingalls, the preservation of Laura’s little towns, the history of drought on the South Dakota prairies, time and place in Wilder’s works, diverse voices, quilts, fashion, the psychology behind the relationship of Wilder and Lane, and the stopping points of Wilder’s journey to Missouri made for three days of learning and enjoyment.
Bill Anderson shared his expertise often during the conference and especially during a trip to Pepin on the afternoon of July 10. The Little House Wayside cabin, of course, is a reproduction on the land near Pepin that Charles Ingalls owned in the 1870s, but no one is any longer sure of the homesite location. Anderson, who had visited the site in the early 1970s before creation of the wayside, shared his best understanding of where the cabin originally stood.
The next LauraPalooza will be held somewhere near Malone, New York (Almanzo Wilder’s birthplace), in 2022. I hope to be there.
Nancy Tystad Koupal
Was a pleasure meeting you! Thanks for joining the fun at LP19 – you added to the program!
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Well captured, Nancy. It was my third, splendid Laurapalooza. The Wednesday evening supper, music by fiddler Mary Pat Kleven and two male musicians, simulated “dance at Grandpa’s,” and the jigging-competition-that-would-not-end was great fun!
Make that “were” great fun!
I am so glad you were able to attend and enjoyed LP19 – and so sorry to have missed you this year as I needed to stay with my Mother in July. Have a great Dakota summer!
It was wonderful to finally meet you formally, Nancy. I’m so pleased you enjoyed yourself. The conference just gets better every time.
Thank you all for continuing Laura’s Legacy. I can’t even begin to explain the influence of Laura on my life. As a child, her books sustained me during many hard times. I am 48 years old now, and they still bring me comfort as they remind me of the most important things in life and keep me grounded.