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.
A scientist at a Laura Ingalls Wilder conference? What the heck am I doing here?
Unsure if my proposed presentation about the weather during the Long Winter would fit into the agenda, and really unsure about what kind of people would be attending the conference, I nonetheless convinced myself (and my supervisor!) to attend Laurapalooza 2010. I didn't know a single soul who would be attending the conference, other than one colleague near the area who wanted to pop in during my presentation. I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that I had fun researching my little project and that I was always a fan of the Little House books as both a child and an adult.
I drove myself up from Omaha to Mankato, stopping by Plum Creek and Walnut Grove along the way to explore the home and museum sites. I stayed at a hotel by the river in downtown Mankato, because it had the federal rate and seemed nice, and I sure as heck wasn't going to share a dorm room with a stranger. I found my way to campus, alone, and found my way to the registration desk.
Was I ever pleasantly surprised!
In the span of two and a half days, I made friends with many engaging people, from many different walks of life, who shared my enthusiasm for Laura and my enjoyment of a little after-hours refreshment. If you are thinking about attending Laurapalooza but don't know anybody else who is going, rest assured that you might arrive as a stranger and outsider, but you will feeling like one of the group. The response to my little presentation about the weather history of the Long Winter was warmer than a cookstove fire in a shanty in July. Other attendees asked questions, sought me out for more information, and expressed more interest in the weather of the Little Housebooks than I ever could have imagined.
The response to my presentation was so overwhelming that I went home inspired to continue the work, to dig deeper and find more weather and climate information in Laura's books (and life) that I could document and interpret. I just knew, after speaking to the Laurapalooza attendees, that this research was onto something, that tying weather and climate information to a story so near and dear to people's hearts made it interesting in a way that just talking about the weather alone couldn't do.
And a dissertation, blog, and more were born.
P.S. I have since attended Laurapalooza 2012, where I had another delightful experience with both old friends and new. Can't wait to see everyone again, and meet new friends, in July 2015!
Barb Mayes Boustead is a 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!