Christiana Heron did extensive research in designing her Danish Maid dress.

Christiana Heron did extensive research in designing her Danish Maid dress. (Courtesy photo)

The nonprofit Solvang Danish Days Foundation has named Solvang’s Christiana Heron as the 2018 Danish Maid.

Heron, whose family has a long history with Danish Days, will preside over this year’s Solvang Danish Days,, California’s premier Danish heritage festival, which returns for its 82nd anniversary with a three-day event weekend, Sept. 14-16.

The 2018 Solvang Danish Days theme is Beautiful Denmark by the Sea, which recognizes Denmark’s historical and cultural connection to the sea.

Solvang’s history of Danish Maids dates back to the 1960s, when Heron’s grandmother Ann Nielsen served as the first “greeter” to the festival in 1961 — Solvang’s 50th Anniversary. After the 50th Anniversary celebration, the post of Danish Maid was officially created.

As this year’s Danish Maid, Heron joins her older sisters Gabrielle Heron, 2017 Danish Maid, and Angelique Heron, 2014 Danish Maid; and mother, Betina Nielsen Heron, 1988 Danish Maid, in representing Solvang.

Danish Days began as an event honoring the 1911 establishment of Solvang by Danish-Americans. Heron’s great-grandfather Axel Nielsen was a part of the beginnings of Danish Days.

Her great-great grandparents, Marcus and Andrea Nielsen, who emigrated from Mors, Denmark, were among the early immigrant settlers of Solvang.

Since its modest beginnings in 1936, when a one-day celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the village’s founding was conceived, Danish Days has evolved into a weekend festival showcasing Solvang’s heritage.

The event marking the town’s Danish roots includes authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment and family activities.

“The women in my family, starting with my grandmother, have all been fortunate enough to hold the position of Danish Maid and have all loved being a part of this annual celebration,” Heron said.

“I believe that now, it’s my turn to carry on the legacy that my family has enjoyed for so long, and to honor the important roles that women have held in Solvang’s history,” she said.
Heron thoughtfully approached the initial design inspiration for her Danish Maid dress, by researching the many traditional dresses from previous years.

She incorporated design elements from a handful of different dresses, for example, requesting “lots of lace, like my sister and mom had in their dresses”, which were based on a Danish wedding dress.
“I chose to go with a solid color and mid-length sleeves for the top, like my oldest sister, who had based her dress off of the style that would be found in Mors, Denmark, which is where my family comes from,” Heron said.

“Being the youngest to become Danish Maid, I wanted to come up with a dress style unique to me, while also keeping with tradition,” she said.
Heron’s dress was custom-made and hand-sewn, like many before hers, by Solvang resident Roberta Skidmore.

Heron’s long-standing family history with Danish Days includes the appointment of her cousin Natalya Nielsen as the 2016 Danish Maid. Her great uncle Don Nielsen was chairman of the Danish Days committee in 1953, and her grandfather Roger was chairman in 1971.

Also in 1971, Heron’s great-grandparents, Axel and Margaret Nielsen, were the Danish Days Parade grand marshals, and in 2010, her grandparents, Roger and Ann Nielsen, were the grand marshals.

Her uncle Rodney Nielsen has volunteered for Danish Days for the last 30-plus years. He has served on the Danish Days Foundation Board for the last 13 years and served as board co-chair in 2013.

One of the Danish Days traditions is the weekend’s pair of Aebleskiver breakfasts, served in the middle of town, a tradition that began with Axel Nielsen, who was in charge of the breakfasts for many years until Roger Nielsen, took the helm.

Rodney Nielsen currently holds the title of breakfast chairman.
Born and raised in Solvang, Christiana Heron will be entering her senior year at Santa Ynez Valley Union High this fall, where she participates in varsity soccer, and track and field. She is a member of her church’s youth group, is on the student leadership team, and is in the worship band.

She volunteers at the Humane Society. She hopes to move into music studies in college, possibly majoring in music in worship.

“Not only will my serving as Danish Maid carry on a wonderful family tradition, but it will be a learning experience that will help me to truly appreciate my heritage and where my family came from,” she said.

“And it’s the perfect opportunity for me to share Solvang’s Danish history and culture with all of the people who visit annually, to get a taste of California’s ‘Little Denmark,’” Heron said.

Leading up to Danish Days weekend, Heron will sell Win a Trip to Denmark raffle tickets at the weekly Solvang Farmers Market.

She will also appear at events for the Danish Brotherhood, the Danish Sisterhood, the Vikings and at Valley Rotary Club meetings, to talk about the upcoming Danish Days events and represent her Danish lineage.

Heron is available for appearances to speak about Danish Days, for other local boards or committees. For further Danish Maid appearance details and availability, contact Brenda Anderson at
More information about Solvang Danish Days is at

— Anna Ferguson-Sparks for Solvang Danish Days.