Stubborn clouds hovered over Solvang on Saturday, but “sunny fields” at least remained in spirit for Danish Days, if not reality.
The 86th annual Danish Days event began Friday and ends Sunday as Solvang — it means sunny fields in Danish — celebrates its heritage.
This year’s theme is “Kom Sammen,” or “Come Together,” as the event features dancing, parades, food, music and other fun.
“This is wonderful,” Solvang Mayor Mark Infanti said. “I really enjoy seeing all the tourists here having a good time. It’s neat to have the dancers that were out here.”
Danish dancers performed on Copenhagen Drive, and a band played while sitting in a horse-drawn Carlsberg Beer wagon that traveled around town, Infanti noted.
“This is a spectacular weekend, and it shows off Solvang in the best way,” Infanti added.
One visitor Saturday, Tom Crowther, left with bragging rights, a prize of an aebelskiver pan and a new appreciation for the Danish pancake.
Crowther consumed four of the round Danish dough balls, aided by drinking a small helping of jam, to help win the aebleskiver eating contest. In total, he estimated he had eight aebleskiver during the two rounds.
Crowther, who is from New Hampshire but lives in Isla Vista, visited Solvang with a group Saturday and learned about the eating contest.
“Never done one before so I thought it would be a fun time, and it was,” Crowther said, declaring the Danish dough balls “delicious.”
Another eating contest with children and adult categories will take place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the Midgaard Pavilion in Parking Lot 2. However, Sunday’s competition won’t just include rookies as competitive eater and eating challenge queen Raina Huang will return.
“Come back tomorrow with an empty stomach and see what you can do,” an announcer told the crowd.
“I thought the under 16 were a little weak on the eating this time,” said Max Hanberg, who had been involved in Danish Days for three decades. “I know we’ve done much better in the past.”
For those who prefer to savor, not stuff, their mouths with the Danish delicacy, the popular aebleskiver breakfast will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Copenhagen Drive between First and Second streets. Tickets cost $10 per person (with Danish sausage, $12). Advance tickets are available for sale at solvang-danish-days-2023.eventbrite.com.
A line remained steady Saturday for those awaiting their chance to partake in aebleskiver — the plural form of the word, as longtime residents love to point out, with aebleskive being the singular version.
In addition to aebleskiver, the celebration includes Danish dancers, a tent with Legos for kids to play, a Viking re-enactment, axe-throwing and more.
Chainsaw carving artist George Kenny from Washington drew crowds eager to watch him wield the tool to turn a block of wood into art as other works sat on display.
He’s participated since at least 2005, with his works on display, including the Viking ship at Solvang Park, the founders’ statues displayed on Copenhagen, Vikings statues and more.
He said Solvang has a special place in his heart since he and his wife, Diane, were married 11 years ago during Danish Days.
On Sunday, visitors also can find the Old World Artisans Marketplace, which includes demonstrations and artisan handcrafted items, a Kids’ Korner Lego tent, a professional Lego Building Competition and a Viking encampment by the Ravens of Odin, a Norse educational group. Living History Days will take place at the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, 1624 Elverhoy Way.
At 2 p.m., the Children’s Parade will begin at Atterdag Square (corner of Atterdag Road and Copenhagen Drive) and meander down Copenhagen to Solvang Park. All children and families are welcome to join this event; there’s no charge to participate, and costumes are encouraged.
The Danish Days closing ceremony with 2023 Danish Days Maid Stephanie Pedersen is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Solvang Park.
Danish Days is organized by the nonprofit Danish Days Foundation, which this year has a new board, led by Thomas Birkholm, as the next generation of Santa Ynez Valley residents take the helm while the old guard still assists in various ways.