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LauraPalooza 2022

I just returned from my very first LauraPalooza event. If you missed my previous blog post, LauraPalooza is a conference dedicated to those who want to know more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the real people, places, and events of the Little House books. 
My chocolate miniature book!

Please note: If you are reading this blog post in an email, you may not be able to see all images or click on links unless you go to the blog by clicking the title of today's blog post. 

In my opinion, LauraPalooza is the perfect place for those who have already learned a bit (or a lot) about Wilder but want to learn even more. (A new fan would also enjoy the conference if they like history.) This academic conference is put on by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association every 2-3 years near various Ingalls/Wilder homesites. I highly recommend Laura fans become a member of this organization. They do incredible work supporting ALL of the Little House museums. 

Now I'd like to share more about LauraPalooza 2022. Just know, this isn't all of it. 

Lauri Goforth shared fraud in the Little House books--including a certain reverend. We heard from Dr. Robert (Bob) Goodby of Franklin Pierce University about the Indigenous people of and near Malone, New York where Farmer Boy took place. Melissa Stoller discussed the stigma of young marriages and Almanzo's age. So many surprising statistics from her research! (She approached it differently than I did in my book and this blog post about Almanzo's date of birth.) 

(Pictured below, clockwise from top left.) Jim Hicks explored train physics and Docia. Nancy Brill shared an important look at farming then and now. John Fry discussed the faith of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Look for a book next year!) Dr. Barb Mayes Boustead continued to amaze us about the real hard winter of 1880 and how it matched up to The Long Winter. (I consulted with her a bit during my own research and writing of The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion.)
Some led group presentations. Here are Dr. Laura McLemore, Laura Whitaker, and Cindy Wilson sharing about a research road trip they took. So much information and fun (even if you can't tell from the picture).  
Patty Dowd Schmitz had a different sort of research trip. She sought out the sledding hill from The Story of Grandpa's Sled and the Pig. She even took us along with her on the LONG sled ride! Big bonus: Though you won't hear the full presentation, learn more about it and see the clever sledding video on the Facebook page called Charles "Pa" Ingalls Historian. (Like the page while you're there.) 
Cindy Wilson and I led a book discussion for Farmer Boy. In addition to insight from our own research, we also used my book The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion to ask some thought-provoking questions of the audience. Boy, did they have ideas to share! It was so much fun and went by too quickly!
There were lots more presentations, too. But three particular people stood out, as expected, as the featured speakers.
William (Bill) Anderson is a perennial favorite and Laura Ingalls Wilder expert. He shares his knowledge and decades of research with all who are curious through his books and presentations. 

Before LauraPalooza, I only know Mitali Perkins as the author of Rickshaw Girl. But oh my goodness. She's yet another new friend. I loved how she shared with us about the multi-storied child. Like many Laura fans, she finds virtue in the stories as well as the flaws. (This is especially important since she is a Person of Color.) I'll be thinking on her talk for a long time. Though I already recognized the importance to share multiple pioneer perspectives when sharing the Little House books, she helped me think even more deeply. Thank you Mitali. 

The 2022 Legacy Award winner is Dean Butler. If you're a fan of the television show Little House on the Prairie, then you certainly know him as the actor who played Almanzo. He has done so much for the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder since the mega hit show ended after nine seasons. It was an honor to meet Dean and learn more about his Little House and Laura and Almanzo work. For example, his documentaries are exceptional. One is Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, and the other is The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Affiliate links. I own both of these on DVD, though Almanzo's story seems currently only available through streaming.) Dean Butler has certainly earned this special honor. 

There were many more speakers, too. And trivia. And a silent auction. Plenty of laughs and fun. We ended our time in Burlington, Vermont with a guided viewing of the PBS American Masters episode Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page. Though it's likely 95% of those in attendance had already seen it, it was even better watching it together AND hearing about how it all came to be from PBS folks Christopher Czajka and Caroline Ranald Curvan. Their insight and behind-the-scenes information was worth the late night! The enormous success of this American Masters showcases the goodness and legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books.
If you didn't have the chance to view the PBS American Masters Laura Ingalls Wilder episode, you can view it for free through the end of July on PBS. It's also available for streaming any time (affiliate). Sorry...commentary from Christopher and Caroline was a LauraPalooza exclusive. You might be able to find your own apple cider doughnuts...but I suspect you'll have to make your own self-turning doughnuts.

Friday most of the conferees went to Malone, New York for a bit of a field trip. Since I was recently at the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, I didn't go this time. But those who did had a wonderful time! Curious to hear more? Check out the #LP22 hashtag. And of course, begin saving now for the next LauraPalooza (possibly in 2025). If you weren't there, maybe you'd like to look at some of my pics from my Almanzo Wilder Homestead research trip.

Of course I loved being with other fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder. For me, I really appreciated that many weren't just fans. These were folks that explore the real Laura or Almanzo or topics or relatives on their own. And now these people are my friends.

This might be my only posed photo. Here you see Bill Anderson, Cindy Wilson, Nicholas Inman (LIW Historic Home and Museum Director), Laura McLemore, and Annette Whipple (me). 
Despite the fact that I spent years researching Little House and Laura Ingalls Wilder, there were MANY people at LauraPalooza who knew so much more than I did. (I'm not surprised. I consulted with some of them during my writing project.) Some of them presented workshops. Others shared in conversation. But we all had something in common: We wanted to celebrate the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association board put on a fabulous conference. Thank you for your commitment to all readers. I'm also excited that the LIWLRA is committed to bringing fans of the Little House books together more frequently. Members can participate in monthly virtual events! They're still organizing this, but I think it'll make a huge difference in the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If knowing more about the real people, places, and events of LIW interests you, I highly recommend becoming a LIWLRA member. 

You can find LIWLRA on social media at @LIWLegacy. Many of the authors mentioned above have websites or social media to follow. They'd love to connect with you.  I'm on social media, too. On Facebook you'll find me at @AnnetteWhippleBooks and @WilderCompanion. Twitter is @AnnetteWhipple. Instagram is @AnnetteWhippleBooks

Until next time...Happy Trails! 
~ Annette 

Annette Whipple is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

1 comment

  1. Annette, I’m so glad you enjoyed LP22 and found the gathering to be just what we envisioned in 2010 (and before!). I’m just sorry that I couldn’t be there to hear and see and experience the fun and new learning…and get to meet you in person - one of these days! Best wishes for your upcoming projects and a little bit of rest with your family. Take care.