Celebrating fifty years of the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant

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It is a special year for De Smet — 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant.

Annual is the key word.

In 1951, families gathered around radios to listen to the Hallmark Playhouse presentation of “The Long Winter.”

After receiving permission from Hallmark Playhouse in 1955, local actors performed “The Long Winter” in the high school auditorium and then again in 1968. It was such a hit that extra chairs had to be brought in from the church.

Encouraged by the overwhelming response to the 1968 production, a group of local volunteers developed plans for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in 1971, an outdoor family drama to celebrate the life and writings of our hometown author. At that time, it was held at the original Charles Ingalls homestead grounds. In 1974, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant Society purchased thirty acres of land to become the pageant’s permanent home for the annual production.

Rain or shine, the pageant has been held annually since 1971. Even the current pandemic didn’t hinder the performance last summer. The pageant board and the directors worked with SDPB to host a live radio show of “The Hard Winter,” so the show went on.

Since this year marks a milestone anniversary, the pageant board is looking for ideas and help to create a special experience for visitors and honor this long-standing tradition. This year’s pageant will be held on July 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 and 23, 24, 25. Individuals and groups or volunteers who want to host a meal, set up activities, offer events, or incorporate any ideas in general during this time are encouraged to attend a Community Collaboration Meeting on Jan. 20 at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center at 7 p.m.

The pageant board hopes to give visitors a welcoming and entertaining visit to our Little Town on the Prairie, encouraging them to come back in the future.

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