For over 49 years, De Smet, South Dakota has been the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, attracting tourists from around the world. Started in 1968, local residents began acting out “The Long Winter”, a "Little House on The Prairie" series novel published in 1940. The novel and the play recall the events of Wilder’s childhood in rural South Dakota.
Historical De Smet continues to pride itself on its annual pageant, which includes covered wagon rides, souvenir stands, and special guests. In July of 1994, Chuck Anderson brought his show to De Smet to analyze the life of the area.
Anderson began his interviews with Portia Potvin—the director of the play—who explained the pageant’s humble beginnings.
Potvin went on to explain how the Little House on the Prairie books tie into the South Dakota Landscape. Wilder and her family resided in De Smet for many years.
The 35 member cast all reside within the De Smet area, and is made up completely of volunteer actors.
One of the members Anderson interviewed was Gloria McCoy, who played ‘Old Laura’ within the pageant.
Anderson traveled throughout the historical site, interviewing volunteers in the tech booth, concession stands, and even the souvenir shop.
With horse and wagon rides available, Anderson couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk with one of the drivers and his load of passengers.
Throughout his trip, Anderson took time to visit with tourists, ensuring that names and an abundance of hometowns made it onto the airwaves.
This year the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant will continue, celebrating Wilder’s 150th birthday. Special guests will include Dean Butler and Allison Arngrim, actors who played Almanzo Wilder and Nellie Olson on the television classic, Little House on the Prairie.
For Anderson's full tour through the historical Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, listen here.