‘Little House On The Prairie’ Celebrates 50 Years With Simi Valley Festival & Exhibit

Melissa Gilbert had a ready answer when asked why fans of Little House on the Prairie always seem to burst into tears whenever they see her in person.

“Because I do! I think it’s just, you know … the show evokes so much emotion in people and made everybody feel,” Gilbert told the crowd Friday at the three-day Little House on the Prairie Cast Reunion and Festival in Simi Valley, CA. “So when they see us, they have the feels, and then the leftover feels from 50 years ago. Now they’re feeling it again through children and grandchildren. There’s this continuity and sense of family. This is a giant family reunion.”

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Thousands of people converged upon Simi Valley’s Rancho Santa Susana Park to remember Little House on the Prairie, the Michael Landon starrer that debuted 50 years ago this year. With the promise to see stars like Gilbert, who played Laura “Half Pint” Ingalls, as well as Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls), Bonnie Bartlett (Grace Edwards), Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) and Linwood Boomer (Adam Kendall), fans waited in long lines to collect autographs, screen old episodes, and take pictures of re-creations of the iconic sets.

Organizers also assembled a mini-exhibit of Little House artifacts, like copies of old scripts, set stills, Little House inspired lunch boxes, and a ’70s Panavision camera that’s similar to the type used by show. There’s even a shirtless photo of Landon setting up a shot.

The most impressive display was not the re-creation of Oleson’s Mercantile or Half Pint’s homestead, however (though plenty of people took turns taking pictures in them). It was Landon’s golf cart that was made to look like a Surrey — a Christmas gift from cast and crew in 1976.

Michael Landon's golf cart on 'Little House on the Prairie'
Michael Landon's golf cart on 'Little House on the Prairie'

The festival also features lots of panels with the original stars, as well a tributes to Landon (who died in 1991) as well as other Little House stars who have passed. And good news for the attendees who decide to fork over $45 for one-day admission: Besides the one she did Friday, Gilbert also has a panel planned on Sunday, as does Arngrim and Grassle.

There’s even a panel featuring Rachel Linda Greenbush and Sidney Greenbush, the twins who took turns playing Half-Pint’s little sister Carrie. In fact, the crowd on Friday was particularly giddy about the possibility of seeing actors who played wee tots in the original series.

“My brother is here!” exclaimed Gilbert about her younger sibling Jonathan, who played Nellie’s brother Willie on the show. The crowd promptly cheered. “We were just doing a group photo with the entire cast and he walked in. He made the biggest entrance of any cast member. Of course, everybody screamed. I burst into tears. Alison was inconsolable.”

For tickets, visit LittleHouseFestival.com.

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