“Little House” star a key part of Keystone event

By Jeff Smith

Something for the town — Dean Butler, the actor who portrayed Amanzo Wilder on the “Little House on the Prairie” TV show, signing an autograph on a photo sold at the Keystone Hisorical Museum. He was the featured guest at the museum’s “Christmas in July” event on July 25.

The Keystone Historical Museum staff lost track of the number of people in the museum on July 25 for the Ingalls Christmas in July event. Jeanie Kirkpatrick, director of the museum, estimates that there were around 200 people there in the morning.

“I think it was a huge success,” Kirkpatrick said.

There were people who had come all the way from Piedmont for the event.

The museum recreated Christmas scenes  from the “Little House on the Prairie” books.

Different rooms in the museum featured different types of crafts related to the Christmas traditions the Ingalls family had. The scenes were also read at each station in the museum.

Children who attended learned about 1800s-style Christmas celebrations.

Kirkpatrick said many times the Ingalls family didn’t have a Christmas tree. The Ingalls also didn’t have shiny Christmas wrapping paper and the stockings they used to put candy or items in was usually one that was used throughout the year.

“It wasn’t like the Christmas stockings we have now,” Kirkpatrick said.

One of the crafts involved making a Morgan horse Christmas ornament. Children could also make a heart-shaped bookmark and there were also coloring sheets available.

Dean Butler, the actor who portrayed Amanzo Wilder on the “Little House on the Prairie” TV show was also a featured guest at the museum. He was Father Time at the event and was also there for a VIP fundraiser dinner for the museum on July 25.

This was held at the Ruby House Restaurant in Keystone. There were 20 people in attendance. Kirkpatrick said it was a small, intimate event but then people were able to ask Butler questions. Dinner guests at the restaurant figured out who he was and were able to get his autograph.

Amanda Hillman was drawn to the museum because of the Carrie Ingalls Swanzey memorabilia. She was visiting with her family from Loveland, Colo.

Hillman said she and her children like the humor in the books and how they relate stories of life in the past.

Butler came to Keystone specifically for the event. He split the fees collected for the autographs for the event which Kirkpatrick said was really nice. The event at the Keystone museum was the only “Little House on the Prairie” event that Butler had on his calendar this summer.

In addition to portraying Almanzo on television he has created two documentaries about “Little House on the Prairie” subjects. The first one is “Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder” and the second is “Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.”

When the TV series was re-issued in 2014 Butler directed, produced, wrote and narrated bonus features for the DVD collections. He has also narrated a six-part documentary called “The Little House Phenomenon” about things surrounding the series. He said there’s a lot of history about the show and it discusses what was going on in America at the time the show premiered.

Several years ago Butler acquired Pa’s fiddle recordings. This celebrates the music Laura wrote about in the books. According to Butler, Laura wrote about 127 different songs her father played on the fiddle. The best of those songs are featured on three CDs.

“They are a very clean, natural kind of recordings,” Butler said.

Next year there will be a lot more events as it will be the 45th anniversary of the TV series.

Butler said “Little House on the Prairie” is one of the most iconic family TV series produced. It was first released in 1974 and has never been off the air. Butler said it continues to run in over 100 countries around the world.

“I think the thing that makes it work is that it was allegorical,” Butler said.

The episodes of the show are things that everybody experiences. He said that the show’s creators used “Little House on the Prairie” to tell stories people wanted to hear. The TV series also emphasizes family values and relationships.

“The thing that I remember most about the show was how everyone was committed to doing the best they could,” Butler said.

He said that included people behind the camera and in front of the camera.

“It was great to be part of something that was so well loved,” Butler said.

At 62, Butler is the second-oldest surviving male who was on the show. For him, the show will always be something of which he can be proud.

“The show will survive all of us who worked on it,” Butler said.

Butler stopped acting in the late 1990s. His focus has turned to being a producer for entertainment, sports and documentaries.

He currently produces the show “Feherty” on the Golf Channel. Butler has produced around 70 of the 120 shows that have been created.