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July 16, 2015 05:16 PM

Positively KELOLAND: Bonnet-Heads In Brookings

Brookings, SD

Bonnet-heads are swarming into Brookings this week sharing their passion for the Little House on the Prairie.  Fans and experts alike are at SDSU discussing author Laura Ingalls Wilder's popular book series.

A spacious ballroom in the SDSU student union is more like a one-room schoolhouse full of Laura Ingalls Wilder students and scholars.  Laura Ingalls Wilder's most ardent fans are called bonnet-heads.

"A bonnet-head is somebody who might like to wear a bonnet, I guess!  But no, we all love Laura Ingalls Wilder so we just kind of nickname ourselves the bonnet-heads, I guess," Julie Miller of Polk City, IA said.

This is the first time South Dakota has hosted this conference known as Laurapalooza.

"De Smet is right nearby and that's a main place that the Ingalls came.  Five of her books were written near De Smet and to be Brookings, too. Of course, Brookins, she put it in the book as Brookins, without the G," Miller said.

Eddie Higgins came to "Brookins" all the way from England.

"Laura's one of four girls, I'm one of four girls.  Something else that resonates with an English reader is the Ingalls family drank a lot of tea.  So, I'm thinking, yeah, they're English at heart," Eddie Higgins of Manchester, England said.

The book's global appeal proves it's a small world when it comes to Little House.

"I've never been to a Star Trek convention, but I can imagine it's a little bit like that, because you're just amongst your own kind," Higgins said.

This year's Laurapalooza has a little more Laura-luster because of last year's release of her Pioneer Girl autobiography.

"I think it's because Laura Ingalls Wilder is a rock star.  And more and more people are interested in finding out about her past, her literary antecedents, they want to know more information about her, they're hungry for her work," Pioneer Girl editor Pamela Smith Hill said.

Laurapalooza attracts Little House readers and researchers.  Many of them with a deep interest in the books, others in the TV series, still others fascinated by frontier history.  And this conference has plenty of material for bonnet-heads to wrap their minds around.

It costs $80 to attend Friday's Laurapalooza events.  The conference wraps up Saturday with a field trip to De Smet.

You can meet Pioneer Girl editor Pamela Smith Hill during a book signing at Zandbroz Variety in downtown Sioux Falls Friday at 7 p.m.

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