There's something about the adventures of early Kansas settler, pioneer, and author of the beloved “Little House on the Prairie” books Laura Ingalls Wilder that still catches the imagination of people today. In honor of her Feb. 7 birthday, JCPRD is planning two programs during February to celebrate Wilders' life and her beloved "Little House" books.
"People still enjoy Laura’s memories because she tells of the everyday struggles of families trying to better their lives," said Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait. "Laura’s family had hope but often they experienced sadness, disappointments, and just plain old bad luck. Even in our modern life we have struggles and her stories remind us to persevere through hard times. The books she wrote tell of lasting lessons like: work hard, be determined, make the most of what you have. Her stories tell of a time when simple pleasures were cherished. Rag dolls and a peppermint stick were unexpected gifts that brought delight."
The programs include Laura’s Legacy for ages five and older on Saturday, Feb. 9, and the new Celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder event on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Both events will take place at the Ernie Miller Nature Center, 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe. Participants in both programs are invited to dress like Laura and wear pioneer clothing.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in the Ozarks, not far from Mansfield, Mo., where Wilder wrote her books, Postlewait said she feels a special connection to these stories.
"As young child maybe six or seven, I remember my mom reading the books aloud to us in the summer," she said. "My sister and I would dress up and pretend we were Mary and Laura, playing in the woods. I liked Laura because she got into trouble sometimes and I could relate to that."
The Laura’s Legacy event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 9. There will be a variety of activities for participants to take part in including making rag dolls, experiencing lessons from an 1800s school, and listening to music from the time period. Refreshments will be served as an interpreter tells Laura’s favorite stories of her childhood. Participants will also have a chance to dance, do some chores, and learn about some of the animals Laura’s family would have encountered coming to Kansas.
Admission for this two-hour event is $7 per person for Johnson County residents, including adults, or $8 per person for nonresidents. Past events have drawn more than 100 participants, so make your reservations early!
Celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder is a new event designed for a 50 Plus audience, and will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Participants will enjoy coffee and pastries as an interpreter portraying Laura tells favorite stories from her childhood. This will be a first-person history interpretation, followed by a question/answer session.
"I think everyone especially the 50 plus group enjoy the stories of long ago, times of travel with wagons and horses, milking cows, and doing farm chores," Postlewait said. "This generation usually can remember some of these experiences visiting the family farm or their grandparents. Laura attended country schools and we are hoping this will also relate to this age group. They often tell stories from their own childhood. We will be allowing some time for sharing these memories at this event."
Admission for this 90-minute event, which includes breakfast, is $12 per person for Johnson County residents, or $14 per person for nonresidents.