Alison Arngrim Talks About Frazier Park’s Fiesta Days, Little House on the Prairie and Nellie Oleson, Her Book and Stage Show and Much More

Alison Arngrim, and “Nellie Oleson” Courtesy of Loose Gravel Productions/Photo by Gor Megaera

Coming up on August 4th through 6th, Frazier Park is celebrating a milestone—-their 50th Annual Fiesta Days. To celebrate this, they have put together a three-day series of events that you won’t want to miss. The Grand Marshals for Fiesta Days are three of the cast members from the iconic TV series, Little House on the Prarie. Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), Brian Part (Carl Edwards) and Rachael Lindsay Greenbush (Carrie Ingalls), along with the real town Mayor of Frazier Park, Tammy Goddard, will be not only doing the parade, but also a doing meet and greet for fans. The LA Beat sat down with Alison Arngrim to talk over Fiesta Days, Little House on the Prarie, Alison’s stage show Confessions of a Prarie Bitch, her popular book Confessions of a Prarie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated and many more things.

Q: Congratulations for being one of the Grand Marshals for the 50th Annual Fiesta Days in Frazier Park. What do you think of the Frazier Park area and all its mountains?

A: Well, it looks gorgeous. I’ve never been so I’m looking forward to this. It’s really cool; what happened is that Brian Part, who was on Little House on the Prarie with us for many years playing Carl. When the episode aired with Patricia Neal who was dying and her children John Jr. and Carl get adopted by Mr. Edwards, that was Brian Part. He’s been living in the gorgeous Frazier Park area for some time now and he contacted me and Rachael Greenbush and said “Hey guys, they have Fiesta Days now—it’s the fiftieth anniversary and they’re having a parade. If you guys will do it, we’ll have three people from Little House”. So myself and Rachael Greenbush, who was Baby Carrie, are going up there with her husband and my husband for the weekend and we get to be in the Parade and hang out. They’ve got like twenty bands playing!

Q: Your book, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated is an inside look at your life during the Little House on the Prarie days. You’re also doing a touring show based on this. How does it feel to meet fans and how do they react to you?

A: I actually started doing a one-woman show called Confessions of a Prairie Bitch in 2002, before the book. I’ve been touring with that for some time. I started doing stand-up at 15 but didn’t create a one-woman show until much later and it really caught on. I’d been working on my autobiography for a while but it was because of the show that a wonderful guy, a literary agent by the name of Kent D. Wolf came to see me and said ‘Is there a book on the show?’ and I said “You bet there is!”, so the we released Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and it was a big hit, I was really, really pleased. Now of course, with both the book and the show and of course the French version, I’m literally going all over the world. It’s just amazing that more then 40 years later, 43 years later, we’re in more then 140 countries with fans all over the world and people just lining up in droves. I’m here at the O Comic Con! in Omaha, I’m heading out tomorrow to South Dakota, I’ll be at Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th Birthday Celebration in De Smet all weekend with Dean Butler. At these events we’re just mobbed—-mobbed by people. It’s amazing how the show and the clamoring for information with things like the book and my show—well, they do talk a lot about me, but I do talk also about what went on with the show at that time.

Fiesta Days Promo Poster, 1973

Q: Fiesta Days is a fundraising effort for Mountain Memories, which is an organization that supports the mountain communities including Frazier Park. You’re also passionate about giving back to the community. What is your role with organizations such as Minor Consideration, APLA and PROTECT.ORG?

A: I got involved with AIDS Project LA back in 1986 when Steve Tracy, who was my husband on the last season, died of AIDS. I wound up being on the AIDS Hotline and their Speakers Bureau, going all over the city and all over the country to help educate people about HIV and to raise money for smaller AIDS organizations. In fact, last October, I helped start the AIDS Project of the Ozarks in Missouri, a great group.

For the last few years I’ve been involved with A Minor Consideration, started by Paul Petersen of the Donna Reed Show. I’m currently on the board and the legislative committee, interested in legislative issues because so many of the protections that have been given to child actors have been through hard-fought legislation and bills passed to actually make them laws. We’re looking at things like making the Coogan Account Laws nationwide. The Coogan Accounts Laws say that a child actor must have 15 percent of their money put aside in their account. That’s only in California! They now have it in a couple more states, but it’s not even nationwide. So many of the protections we take for granted for child actors aren’t even nationwide and aren’t really enforced. We’re trying to make sure those things happen. For PROTECT, I’m President of the Board of Directors. It’s an association to protect children. We have fought over the years for better legislation to protect children. We’ve fought at the federal level to increase funding for law enforcement. Currently we have the HERO CORPS program, a training program for veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that may have been injured and cannot go back to their old jobs and are looking for a new career. We put them through a training and give them internship amounts to the ICACTF program. ICACTF is the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, people who are working with law enforcement teams who are fighting child trafficking and child pornography. We are training these people to assist them and then ultimately be hired by them. They need so much manpower, these teams, and we’re helping them get that. We’re also getting them tech—things like child rescue technology, and so much of what goes on that you’ve heard about like the dark web, the terrible things that go on over the internet with child pornography and trafficking. Law Enforcement, what they need are software, the tech and the tools to trap these people and hunt them down—-and we’re helping them to do that, to get the things that they need.

Q: You’re in the Fiesta Days Parade with co-Grand Marshals Brian Part and Rachael Lindsay Greenbush, both cast members of Little House on the Prairie. Do you see your former cast members often?

A: Yes! Yes I do, especially Rachael. Rachael lives about ten minutes away. In fact, I’m out here on the road, but my husband Bob is back home—his band Catahoula was playing on Saturday night and so Rachael and Danny and some other people went to see them. And Hersha (Paraday) went too, who was Mrs. Garvey on the show. I see her quite a bit. Melissa Gilbert moved unfortunately, she moved to Michigan! So I have to satisfy myself with mainly harassing her on Twitter. Dean Butler I’m going to be seeing on Friday, I see him frequently at events. He also lives in L.A., although he’s also in Florida quite a bit as he works for the GolfChannel, producing shows for them. But for all of us who live in L.A., we get together, even Charlotte Stewart who lives up in Napa, I see her quite frequently now since her book came out and she’s been touring a lot. We do a lot of events together. So yes, we got together for the big cast reunions in 2014; we were seeing each other constantly. And Dan McBride, the man with the chicken in the restaurant, he’s down the street. Recently Dan McBride and Ketty Lester, who was Hester-Sue on the show and Lucy Lee Flippen, who was Eliza Jane, Rachael, who was of course Baby Carrie and Wendi Turnbaugh, who was Baby Grace, we’re all signed to the same agent in Los Angeles, so we see each other quite frequently.

Q: You’ll be signing and selling copies of your book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated at Fiesta Days. Have you embraced the longevity and appeal of Little House and your ‘Nellie’ character?

A: Oh yes, quite some time ago. When the show first ended, we, like most actors, felt that ‘We’re gonna go on to different things now, no one will remember this in a few years’. HAHA!!! By the ’90s, with the videos, first with the VHS tapes that were for sale and then the DVDs, and later Nickelodeon and TVLand and all these fabulous retro channels, and now we’re in 140 countries and YouTube and they just put us on BluRay, there’s just no end to this. Pretty much all the cast now has caught up with it and embraced it. Early on, I saw where it was going and that this was not going away, so I said ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. Absolutely, I totally embrace it.

Q: Do you have a favorite story from your Little House on the Prarie days?

A: Seven years is an awfully long time to pick just one story! There were so many incredible things. Everybody asks me about my favorite episode, and absolutely my favorite episode is the one Bunny, where I go down the hill in the wheelchair. It is literally everybody in the world’s favorite episode. I’ve had people from virtually every country in the world ask me about that one and it was amazing because, I mean, who does this, it isn’t on any other show, nobody goes down a hill in a wheelchair. I liked that episode, not only was the wild stunt and going down the hill fun, but it’s also the episode where Nellie actually wrecks everybody’s day. Usually she’s ruining just Laura’s life but in this episode Pa Ingalls has to drop what he’s doing and make her a wheelchair, Doc Baker is freaking out because he can’t cure her, Mrs. Oleson thinks her daughter is paralyzed, Mr. Olson is sitting in the back of the store crying because he thinks her life is ruined. I actually interact with the adults and cause huge problems for the entire town just to get attention for a few days, so so it is really a major, major event that she’s willing to go that far and mess with that many people to cause a scene and get attention. It’s a pretty heavy episode.

Q: Any final thoughts, Alison?

A: It’s my first time up in Frazier Park. Brian’s been bugging us for years, saying “You gotta come up here, it’s gorgeous!”, so we’re finally going to go up there. It’s great because it’s in California, so many of my fans say “You’re always in Walnut Grove and South Dakota and Minneapolis, you’re off in Omaha and New York and France, but you’re never here in California!”. Well I am in California! Just jump on the 5 and come on up to Frazier Park! It’s a huge event, if you go to the website you’ve got all the bands, you’ve got the parade, so it’s really going to be fun. It’s going to be hot, I would tell people to bring your water, bring your sunblock, bring a hat so you don’t get sunstroke, but I think it’s going to be really, really fun. Getting to meet a lot of people will really be a hoot! We haven’t done many where we have the combination of Rachael, Brian and me, where you have Carl, Carrie and Nellie. I don’t think we’ve done that combo yet.

Q: Thank you, Alison. We’ll see you at Fiesta Days!

Besides the parade and the meet and greet, there will be pancake breakfasts, rides, a Horseshoe Tournament (entry fee required) and the George Erb and Brian Prosser Log Sawing Contest (entry fee required) that includes categories for Men, Women, Mixed Couples, Teens and Juniors. 1St, 2nd and 3rd Place medals will be given in each category. There is also the popular Pet Show with a Best Overall Trophy to be awarded. For those who want, there is a Sunday morning Worship in the Park with music and singing.

Bo & The Bluesdrivers, courtesy of Doug Deutsch PR

But what about music? Fiesta Days is jam-packed with live music. On Friday, guests can enjoy music at the Dining Pavilion Stage from Roger Wynfield and Primal Force, local favorites The Chimpz and Lady Evil (Black Sabbath/Dio tribute). Saturday afternoon, Brian Part and his wife will bring their group The Parts to the Center Stage. The Dining Pavilion Stage Saturday will feature Electric Hound, Frequency, Aces & Eights and Sweet Home Alabama (Lynrd Skynrd tribute). If you haven’t had enough music and dancing after that, Sue’s Tavern in Frazier Park is having an After-Party, featuring Beer Drinkers and Hell-Raisers, a ZZ Top tribute. Sunday’s Dining Pavilion lineup includes Matt Galindo, Backlash and the ever-popular Bo & the Bluesdrivers. Over at the Center Stage, a variety of entertainment is available, including Courtney Ann Peterson, Samantha Smith, Illusion, Andrew Lemburg, Missing Autumn, Moya and the Bull Frog Blues Band.

 As per previous years, admission and parking are free (rides and game tickets can be purchased; some family contests have entry fees). Frazier Mountain Park, 3800 Park Drive. Info: (661) 623-2340 or http://frazierfiestadays.com. There is also a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FiestaDays/. There will be plenty of food and drinks for sale too. 

Whether you go up for a day trip or up for the weekend and stay in a hotel, there will be plenty to see and do at Fiesta Days. The drive itself is a nice one, a jaunt through the Angeles Forest and a nice view of Pyramid Lake on the way. From Downtown Los Angeles, it’s less than a two hour drive to the pine-covered mountains and the town of Frazier Park.

Ed Simon

About Ed Simon

Ed is a native of Los Angeles who loves food and food cultures. Whether he's looking for the best ceviche in Colombia, the best poke in Hawaii, the best tequila in Jalisco or the best Taiwanese Beef Roll in Los Angeles, it's all good food! He also loves a good drink. He's had Mai Tais in Hawaii, Bourbon in Kentucky, Tequila in Mexico and Rum in Jamaica. His wine escapades have taken him to Napa, Sonoma, the Willamette Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley. And he's had beer all over the world! Music is another of Ed's passion, writing and interviewing many classic rock, rock and blues musicians. Getting the great stories of road experiences from them is a particular delight. Traveling also fits in with Ed's writing, exploring all over to find the most interesting places to visit, even in out of the way areas.
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