From the neighborhood of Silver Lake to the banks of Plum Creek

With a love of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books - and a picture-perfect pair of braids - Rachel Danko of North St. Paul was selected the top "Laura Look-Alike" this past summer at the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, Minn.

This was the 11-year-old's second year to enter the Laura Look-Alike contest, vying with 48 other girls. (There's also a Nellie Oleson contest, but, perhaps because of Nellie's personality, that only drew 7 contenders.) The girls came from 16 states and Canada.

"Laura" contestants dressed like the well-loved character and were asked questions about the book series.

"Rachel loves the books and the TV shows," Janice Danko says, explaining the John Glenn sixth-grader's first exposure was to the old TV shows, and then she picked up on a set of Laura Ingalls books her mother had enjoyed as a child.

Ingalls exploration has become something of a family hobby; in fact, the Dankos made a summer Ingalls trek, visiting many of Laura's home sites such as Walnut Grove, Minn., DeSmet, South Dakota, and Burr Oak, Iowa.

"She has read the whole series of Laura Ingalls and read historical biographies also," Janice Danko reports. "Rachel is similar to Laura in the way that they both like school and they both love to read. Rachel would also like to become a teacher when she grows up (we just hope she enjoys it more than Laura Ingalls did). Rachel would also like to add that they both have the same middle name which is Elizabeth."

During the pageant, the question Rachel had to answer was the date Laura was born: Feb. 7, 1867. After the top seven were chosen from the Laura look-a-likes and the top seven from the Nellie look-a-likes, the girls were paired up and given a small skit to practice for about 15 minutes.

"They then acted out their skit and the judges based their decision on how well the girls did," Danko explains. "Rachel and Grace (winner for Nellie) acted out the scene when Laura tricked Nellie into going to the creek and putting her feet into the creek where there were leeches and a crab. I believe that Rachel was chosen not only for her looking so much like Laura, but when she did the skit, she really acted out the scene and made it seem as if it were real. She kind of had that deceiving tone in her voice when she was trying to get Nellie to put her feet in the creek!"

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