Ingalls’ birthday is Aug. 3

Leslie Silverman

Aug. 3 marks Carrie Ingalls 150th birthday, and although the Carrie Ingalls Festival to celebrate the day has been postponed to July of 2021 due to COVID, the decision did not come easily.

“It was a difficult decision but making sure that residents and visitors would be safe was number one,” said Jeanie Kirkpatrick, vice president of the Keystone Area Historical Society (KAHS). “We wanted to make sure  all would be well and we would not become ill.”

This also gives KAHS more time to make the celebration “bigger and better,” Kirkpatrick said.

KAHS hopes to partner with surrounding towns to which Ingalls had connections. “Carrie also worked on the Hill City newspaper,” Kirkpatrick said. “Carrie’s uncle was in the Gordon Party in Custer. Carrie and David had their honeymoon in Hot Springs.”

The idea is to have a “Carrie Caravan,” to bus festival attendees to these towns so they can learn more about Ingalls’ ties to the Black Hills.

KAHS and Keystone Historical Museum have been celebrating Ingalls’ birthday since it was founded in 1983. Ingalls left many artifacts to A.I. Johnson and his wife, Wilemetta, founders of the Keystone Museum.

Celebrations have included cake and lemonade, a fiddle contest and even a Carrie lookalike contest. Television actors from “Little House on the Prairie” as well as members of Ingalls’ family have attended past birthday celebrations.

The interest in Ingalls’ life has not waned, likely because of her famous sister, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“Since Laura did not write about the family after a certain time period people want to know what happened to the sisters in adulthood,” Kirkpatrick said. “For the tourists who come here to Keystone t,hey are surprised to find out that Carrie lived here until her death.  Like the books, the television series still had Carrie as a young child with no discussion on what happened to them after high school.”

Many locals know how prominent a figure Carrie was to Ingalls.

“Carrie did a lot for the town of Keystone,” Kirkpatrick said. “She saved the United Church of Christ (UCC) from closing. There was a time the number of people that attended UCC was very low and there was talk about closing the church. Carrie did not like that idea and made sure the doors stayed open.”

There are also rumors Ingalls made sure Keystone had a town library.

“She put Keystone on the map with more than just Mount Rushmore and mining.” Kirkpatrick said. “Carrie is one of the most famous people of Keystone.”

Much of Ingalls’ memorabilia can be seen in the Keystone Museum, which is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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