Solvang City Council members Karen Waite and Chris Djernaes.
Solvang City Council members Karen Waite and Chris Djernaes listen to presentations during a special meeting Wednesday night about who will oversee this year’s Julefest celebration in the city. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With Christmas Day three months away and Solvang’s traditional celebration kickoff even sooner, the City Council picked an out-of-town event planner for Julefest, but instructed hiring a local man to serve as the expert for Danish traditions.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the City Council heard from three representatives who submitted proposals to organize the annual Christmas season celebration that includes a parade, a tree-lighting ceremony, candlelight tours, a wine and beer walk and Santa’s village.

Mayor Ryan Toussaint and Council members Karen Waite and Robert Clarke voted for hiring IDK Events, which is based in San Francisco, but called for hiring Daniel Lahr as a consultant.

“I just felt that IDK had a more dynamic presentation,” Clarke said. “But…I want Daniel (Lahr) involved in this, and I want to pay him to be involved in this. I think we need it because IDK might need him.

“If we can hire Daniel as a consultant, get IDK to take us to that next level, that I think is the best thing we can do for Solvang,” Clarke added.

Councilman Chris Djernaes, seeking to delay the vote, abstained, saying he had “a problem with this,” while Councilman Daniel Johnson voted against it, citing Djernaes’ abstention.

Julefest events had been organized by the Solvang Conference and Visitor’s Bureau, but the City Council abruptly canceled that organization’s contract in July, leaving leaders to scramble to find a replacement.

The city issued a request for proposals, providing an unusually short time of eight days before the deadline.

One proposal came from Lahr, who worked as SCVB’s special programs manager for the last two years and was tasked with planning Julefest. 

Solvang Councilman Daniel Johnson.

Solvang Councilman Daniel Johnson appears less than enthralled Wednesday night during presentations about who will oversee this year’s Julefest celebration in the city. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

He suggested adding a Julefest Market or sidewalk sale and a Godt Nytar, or New Year, celebration with a countdown to 3 p.m. — midnight in Copenhagen.

“I come to you today with a history and a culture of Solvang, a place where I’ve been an ambassador to the world,” Lahr said. “I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, and the people love stories about Solvang’s traditions.”

IDK Events boasts more than 20 years of experience producing parades and festivals, including the annual San Francisco Pride Parade & Festival. 

“I believe our role is less to come in and disrupt than it is to steward and improve,” said Scott Shuemake, managing member of IDK Events.

Louisiana-based Pink Cadillac Entertainment, a firm with staff locally and throughout the United States, also sought the contract.

The company has extensive experience hosting municipal events, parades and a wide range of events including large-scale productions.

Kevin Rock from Pink Cadillac made his presentation via Skype, and said is team has been involved in Santa Barbara County events throughout the year, including the Avocado Festival in Carpinteria.

“What we know that brings is vendor relationships that we can leverage,” Rock said. “We know who is the best as far as service, pricing, things like that  We know that can be really helpful with the multitude of different events that are involved with this.”

Proposals range from Lahr’s $62,000 to Pink Cadillac’s $122,700, and include many of the usual Julefest features with ideas for other additions. 

With Wednesday’s vote, city staff and IDK representatives will iron out costs and the scope of work

The mayor suggested council members hash out other events they want added to Julefest. 

“I’m trying to think in terms of budget and expectations,” Toussaint said. “I don’t want us approving something here and then I hear later on, ‘I’m not happy because, oh God, this one was the most important to me.’ That’s what I’m trying to avoid here.”

Djernaes lobbied for daytime fireworks, an ice skating rink and a light show similar to the one at the Cambria Christmas Market in northwest San Luis Obispo County.

Shuemake said he left fireworks out of the proposal due to recent fires in Santa Barbara County. 

“And we liked the idea of the Christmas tree burn as that pyro bookend,” Shuemake said of the traditional Julefest final event involving burning the huge piles of trees dropped off by residents.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at