The Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy Award: Recognizing Work That Matters

The Countdown to LauraPalooza 2015 has begun. Before we pack our bags and head to South Dakota for a weekend of education, celebration and fun, some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy & Research Association board members are taking a look back—or forward—at some of the good times you can expect.

“This is the Cadillac of Laura Ingalls Wilder conferences.”

When Bill Anderson said this back in 2010, at our very first LauraPalooza conference, that’s when I knew everything was going to be all right.

Let me back up a bit. For years, there were next to no conferences celebrating research on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books. There was an academic gathering at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum back in 1998, and then another small, lovely conference in 2001 in De Smet, South Dakota. But there was nothing on a grand scale–nothing that was recognized nationally saying that we take Laura, her work, and her impact seriously.

So we started talking about a conference. We formed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. We approached the homesites. We scouted for locations. And we consulted Bill Anderson.

Bill wasn’t keen on the idea.

It’s been talked about, he said. But it’s a lot of work.

That, of course, made us even more determined.

As summer 2010 approached, we stayed up nights. We scheduled and we re-scheduled and we planned. We talked amongst ourselves, asked questions, got some answers, and asked even more questions. We made decisions and lived with them. Finally, in July, we set ourselves up in Mankato with over 100 registered attendees expected, and we waited to see if what we hoped LauraPalooza would be would indeed be LauraPalooza.

It was.

If I didn’t know it at first, hearing Bill’s unprompted words confirmed it. The Cadillac of Laura Ingalls Wilder conferences. We had done it.

LIWLRA board member Rebecca Brammer presents Bill Anderson with the first Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy Award, July 2010

That year, we presented Bill with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy Award. He was the first recipient. Two years later, our next awards went to Walnut Grove’s Shirley Knakmuhs and The Little House Cookbook author Barbara Walker. Even with all of the demonstrations, the presentations, and the learning and sharing–not to mention the ice cream and the after-hours karaoke–that were integral to those two and a half days in 2010 and then again in 2012, my favorite part is still the awards ceremony. Telling people: Your work matters. Seeing those pioneers of Little House work stand in front of an audience who knows what they have done, and why it made a difference–and will continue to make a difference.

It’s the only part of either conference that moved me to tears.

Next year, someone else’s work will be recognized. And we’ll stand up for them, and applaud, and some of us will share our own story about their work, and why it matters to us.

We hope you’ll join us in Brookings next July to see that. I, for one, can’t wait to tell them how much they matter.

Sandra Hume is a founding board member of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. To learn more about LauraPalooza 2015 click here. We’ll see you in Brookings!

Posted in LauraPalooza 2015