Melissa Gilbert and stars from 'Little House on the Prairie' reunite. See them now.

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Some cast members of "Little House on the Prairie" hadn't seen each other since the TV show ended in 1983.

That's OK, neither had their fans.

More than 18,000 people gathered for the Little House on the Prairie cast reunion and festival celebrating the show's 50th anniversary at a park in Simi Valley, California, not far from Big Sky Ranch where much of the series was filmed. They learned to churn butter, blacksmith and use a washboard. They toured a replica of the Ingalls' house, the Oleson's Mercantile, and the one-room school house.

But mostly they came to see the actors they loved.

These were not casual fans, but those with custom shirts ("In a world of Nellies, be a Laura") and wore bonnets and calico dresses. They carried books, posters, vintage lunch boxes and aprons to get autographed. Iced-coffee outsold beer. They paid $665 for a photo with the cast.

They stood in lines ― for more than five hours at times ― for a chance to meet their favorites and get selfies. They thanked the stars for being a big part of their childhood.

Fans paid to have their photos taken with the cast of "Little House on the Prairie." Many cast members hadn't seen each other in decades and spent lots of time catching up.
Fans paid to have their photos taken with the cast of "Little House on the Prairie." Many cast members hadn't seen each other in decades and spent lots of time catching up.

Most people wanted to see Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura; Karen Grassle who played Ma/Caroline Ingalls; or Alison Arngrim who played Nellie Oleson. Some cast members have appeared at smaller tributes, but this was the first time most of them were together.

The three-day festival celebrated the show's pilot episode, which aired as a movie on March 30, 1974, on NBC. The full season began that fall. Created by Michael Landon and based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the show's reunion drew people from across the country, with several coming from France and Sweden. Landon, who also directed and starred in the show, died in 1991. Several other cast members have died, including Victor French (Mr. Edwards) in 1989, Richard Bull (Mr. Oleson) in 2014, and Katherine MacGregor (Mrs. Oleson) in 2018

Two popular actors, Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) and Matt Labyorteaux (Albert) weren't there. ("Real Housewives" fans: neither did Kyle Richards, who played Alicia.) But that didn't stop fans from posting with grown-up twins Wendi Lou Lee and Brenda Turnbaugh, who appeared on the show as toddlers.

"It's like a big family reunion," Melissa Gilbert says.

A fan dresses at Kezia, a guest character on three episodes of "Little House on the Prairie," at a fan festival in March. Kezia's character didn't have a home and had mental health struggles, and Melissa Gilbert says the way the show portrayed social issues kept the show relevant.
A fan dresses at Kezia, a guest character on three episodes of "Little House on the Prairie," at a fan festival in March. Kezia's character didn't have a home and had mental health struggles, and Melissa Gilbert says the way the show portrayed social issues kept the show relevant.

As part of the 50th anniversary, there are dozens of events across the country, including Arngrim's one woman show, "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch."

You can stream "Little House on the Prairie" on some networks including Freevee, Amazon Prime and Peacock.

See the "Little House" reunion festival See the fans and sets from 'Little House on the Prairie's' 50th anniversary festival

Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Melissa Gilbert at the Little House on the Prairie 50th Anniversary celebration in Simi Valley on March 23.
Melissa Gilbert at the Little House on the Prairie 50th Anniversary celebration in Simi Valley on March 23.

Gilbert played Laura for nine seasons, growing up from the little girl in braids to a married mom. She has starred in TV movies and series, appeared on "Dancing with the Stars," wrote two memoirs, served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and acts in plays and musicals.

Gilbert launched Modern Prairie, a lifestyle site, with Nicole Haase, in 2022. The site features classes ranging from coping with grief to flower arranging as well as products made by women and from women-owned businesses.

Gilbert, 59, is married to the actor and director Timothy Busfield.

More: How 'Little House on the Prairie' star Melissa Gilbert shaped a generation of women

Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls, Ma)

Karen Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls or "Ma," on "Little House on the Prairie" greeted fans at the Little House on the Prairie Festival on March 23.
Karen Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls or "Ma," on "Little House on the Prairie" greeted fans at the Little House on the Prairie Festival on March 23.

“My very favorite show is the pilot. When we were making it, all of us were in similar situation to what the family was in. We didn’t know what it was going to be like, we didn’t know how to do, we didn’t know each other, we were learning to bond … in the mud, in the snow. I always felt like the actual experience we were having helped to make the pilot feel genuine,” says Grassle, 82.

Rachel Lindsay Greenbush and Sidney Greenbush (Carrie)

Rachel Lindsay Greenbush and Sidney Greenbush are the twins who played Carrie Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie."
Rachel Lindsay Greenbush and Sidney Greenbush are the twins who played Carrie Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie."

Sidney Greenbush, 53, had not been back to Big Sky Ranch since she left the show. “It feels like when you go to your childhood home and you haven’t lived there for a long time and there’s a certain familiarity that comes back,” she says.

Her twin sister Rachel Lindsay Greenbush, who also played Carrie, got married at the ranch years ago. She says being back at Big Sky gave her all the feels: “It’s like giving a little piece of me back."

Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson)

Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie" and had fans laughing all weekend at the Little House on the Prairie 50th reunion in Simi Valley.
Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie" and had fans laughing all weekend at the Little House on the Prairie 50th reunion in Simi Valley.

Arngrim, 62, has written a best-selling book, "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" (which is a must-read for "Little House" fans) and has turned the book into a one-woman show.

Jonathan Gilbert (Willie Oleson)

Jonathan Gilbert played Willie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie," and holds his trademark lollipop from the show. He handed them out to fans.
Jonathan Gilbert played Willie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie," and holds his trademark lollipop from the show. He handed them out to fans.

Jonathan Gilbert, Melissa Gilbert's younger brother, has lived a private life the past 40 years since leaving "Little House."

"I had a whole spiritual journey for maybe 20 years, I’ve worked in finance on Wall Street, lived in Manhattan for a long time," Gilbert, 56, says. "But really at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than acting with the 'Little House' cast. Of all the things, that feels most like living, which was odd because I spent the whole time after 'Little House' trying to figure out how to live. What I really didn’t realize was that I was already home."

Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder)

Dean Butler played Almanzo Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."
Dean Butler played Almanzo Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."

Dean Butler, 67, has a book out this summer, “Prairie Man."

He described his writing routine: “It was every morning at 5 a.m. getting up before the sun, sitting down at the dining room table and every day for two hours.”

Wendi Lou Lee and Brenda Turnbaugh (Baby Grace Ingalls)

Twins pose with fan, Tiffany Verran. Brenda Turnbaugh (left) and Wendi Lou Lee, right.
Twins pose with fan, Tiffany Verran. Brenda Turnbaugh (left) and Wendi Lou Lee, right.

Twins Wendi Lou Lee and Brenda Turnbaugh, 46, played Grace Ingalls.

Lucy Lee Flippin (Eliza Jane Wilder)

Lucy Lee Flippin played Eliza Jane Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."
Lucy Lee Flippin played Eliza Jane Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."

Lucy Lee Flippin, 80, talked about how she got into character, and said the setting on the ranch helped. But the costumes really did it. “They make you walk different and stand different," she says.

Jennifer Donati (Baby Rose Wilder)

Jennifer Donati played Rose Wilder as a baby on "Little House on the Prairie."
Jennifer Donati played Rose Wilder as a baby on "Little House on the Prairie."

Jennifer and Michelle Steffin (Rose Wilder)

Twins Jennifer and Michelle Steffin played Rose Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."
Twins Jennifer and Michelle Steffin played Rose Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie."

The twins, 43, both played Rose Wilder. Jennifer Steffin said "I'm so happy to see so many fans."

Patrick Labyorteaux (Andrew Garvey)

Patrick Labyorteaux played Andrew Garvey on "Little House on the Prairie."
Patrick Labyorteaux played Andrew Garvey on "Little House on the Prairie."

Patrick Labyorteaux, 58, said one of his favorite memories was when they filmed at MGM studios with guest star Ray Bolger from "The Wizard of Oz." “On the floor was this piece of movie history," he says: the yellow brick road. His brother Matt Labyorteaux played Albert Ingalls on the show.

Linwood Boomer (Adam Kendall)

Boomer Linwood played Adam Kendall on "Little House on the Prairie."
Boomer Linwood played Adam Kendall on "Little House on the Prairie."

Linwood Boomer, 68, created a very popular show based on his life, "Malcolm in the Middle." He is the founder and board chair of Healing California, a nonprofit that provides free medical, dental and vision care. He donated all money fans paid for autographs and photos to the charity.

Ketty Lester (Hester-Sue Terhune)

Ketty Lester played Hester-Sue Terhune on "Little House on the Prairie."
Ketty Lester played Hester-Sue Terhune on "Little House on the Prairie."

Ketty Lester, 89, signed some of her CDs for fans and sang at a worship service at the reunion. “You don’t know how much it means for me to see you,” Ketty says. “I’ve always loved the people that love me."

Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle)

Charlotte Stewart played Miss Beadle on "Little House on the Prairie."
Charlotte Stewart played Miss Beadle on "Little House on the Prairie."

Many asked Charlotte Stewart to pose in the replica of the school house where she had played teacher, Miss Beadle. Stewart, 83, brought her tiny 15-year-old dog, who was a hit among fans. She also sold lemon verbena perfume, like she was known for wearing on the show.

Leslie Landon (Etta Plum)

Leslie Landon Matthews played Etta Plum, and along with her brother, Michael Landon, Jr., joined the reunion.
Leslie Landon Matthews played Etta Plum, and along with her brother, Michael Landon, Jr., joined the reunion.

Two of Michael Landon's children, Leslie Landon Matthews, 61, and Michael Landon, Jr., 59, attended the reunion.

“When we pulled up, we didn’t know, there might be a line, it’s all the way around the corner. Oh my gosh, this has been unbelievable,” Landon, Jr., says. “And you’ve totally rekindled our hearts for the show and the love of the show. Thank you for that.”

Jonathan Kovacs (The Wild Boy)

Jonathan Kovacs played a character known as "the wild boy" in "Little House on the Prairie."
Jonathan Kovacs played a character known as "the wild boy" in "Little House on the Prairie."

Jonathan Kovacs, 54, said he was happy to meet so many fans. His son served as an ASL interpreter as he greeted fans.

Brian Part (Carl Sanderson Edwards)

Brian Part played Carl Sanderson Edwards on "Little House on the Prairie."
Brian Part played Carl Sanderson Edwards on "Little House on the Prairie."

Brian Part, 62, played Mr. Edwards' son.

David Friedman (Jason Carter)

David Friedman played Jason Carter on "Little House on the Prairie."
David Friedman played Jason Carter on "Little House on the Prairie."

David Friedman, 53, played Jason Carter, and stopped acting after childhood.

Pamela Roylance (Sarah Carter)

Pamela Roylance played Sarah Carter on "Little House on the Prairie."
Pamela Roylance played Sarah Carter on "Little House on the Prairie."

Pamela Roylance, 71, helped plan the reunion. She said the was surprised by "the kindness and stories from fans."

Victor French, Jr., (Son of Victor French who played Mr. Edwards)

Victor French, Jr., attended the "Little House on the Prairie" reunion on behalf of his father, Victor French, who had died. French played Mr. Edwards.
Victor French, Jr., attended the "Little House on the Prairie" reunion on behalf of his father, Victor French, who had died. French played Mr. Edwards.

Victor French, who played Mr. Edwards, died in 1989. His son came to the reunion. Many fans hugged him - and asked him to sing the song his father was known for: "Old Dan Tucker."

Bonnie Bartlett (Grace Edwards)

Grace Edwards was played by Bonnie Bartlett on "Little House on the Prairie."
Grace Edwards was played by Bonnie Bartlett on "Little House on the Prairie."

Bonnie Bartlett, 94, might have the longest career of any cast member. She's acted for more than 70 years. Many might remember her as played the mom in the movie "Twins."

Where can I watch all seasons of 'Little House on the Prairie'?

You can watch "Little House on the Prairie" on Freevee, Amazon Prime, Peacock and purchase episodes on Apple TV.

Where is the 'Little House' 50th reunion in 2024?

While the cast celebrated the 50th reunion in Simi Valley in March, there are several more events planned around the country including in Connecticut, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Various cast members will attend.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Little House on the Prairie show celebrates 50 years