California’s premier Danish heritage festival, Solvang Danish Days, will hold its 82nd run this year with a three-day event weekend lineup Sept. 14-16.
The 2018 Solvang Danish Days theme, “Beautiful Denmark by the Sea,” will be celebrated during this year’s event, which honors the 1911 establishment of Solvang by Danish-Americans. The 2018 edition of Solvang Danish Days will continue to offer attendees a total Danish immersion experience while helping preserve Solvang’s authentic Danish heritage.
Danish Days guests looking to “live like Vikings” throughout the event weekend will have the opportunity to purchase a “Dane for a Day” VIP ticket bundle (only available online), while those looking to gain quicker entrance to Saturday and/or Sunday’s Aebleskiver Breakfasts, may now purchase tickets for either day’s breakfast. All advance, online tickets are available by clicking here.
Since Solvang Danish Days’ modest beginnings in 1936, when the festival debuted to commemorate the village’s 25th anniversary, the event has set out to celebrate Solvang’s Danish heritage with authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment and family activities. In 1946, a reporter from then-influential The Saturday Evening Post visited Solvang during Danish Days, and the resulting article, which appeared in January 1947, put Solvang on the proverbial map. The article stated, in part, “Solvang … a spotless Danish village that blooms like a rose in California’s charming Santa Ynez Valley. Old country charm and customs have been successfully fused with the American way of life. Nowadays … the quaint village is busy living up to its affectionate name, ‘Little Denmark.’ ”
As Danish Days nears its 82nd birthday, the festival continues to mesh “old country charm and customs” with a more modern “way of life” through its varied activities, which blend present-day Danish practices with traditional ways while still exemplifying everything Danish. The weekend’s numerous offerings, encompassing activities for all ages, range from fan-favorite food events surrounding Aebleskiver, the iconic Danish pastry rounds; to a Danish-style beer and wine garden serving Danish import, Carlsberg beer, alongside local brews and wines; to a historical reenactment in the form of a Viking Encampment; to interactive history lessons at the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art; to chainsaw wood-carving demonstrations, and an Old World artisanal crafts marketplace.
Solvang Danish Days boasts plentiful free entertainment during the weekend with three parades, Danish folk dancers and musicians performing in spots scattered about the town, plus an afternoon and evening of free, live concerts on the Midgaard Pavilion Stage in the middle of downtown Solvang, adjacent to the Viking Beer & Wine Garden.
Returning to Solvang Danish Days this year is a townwide restaurant promotion; participating Solvang eateries and bars will be “cooking up” something special just for Danish Days weekend.
Solvang Danish Days also aims to please the next generation of Danish Days fans with family-friendly pastimes, including storytelling sessions with Randel McGee as Hans Christian Andersen, and a “Kid’s Korner” in Solvang Park featuring LEGO.
As history would have it, 2018 also marks the 75th anniversary of the Danes helping to rescue Danish Jews from the Nazi regime, by ferrying them across the sea to neutral Sweden. In honor of this brave act, the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community will host a special facet of Danish Days weekend.
Since the 1960s, Solvang Danish Days has been presided over by each year’s Danish Maid, a tradition that remains an honorable accomplishment for each of the young, local women appointed by the Danish Days Foundation board members, to become a specific year’s Danish Maid. The 2018 Danish Maid is high school senior Christiana Heron, a fifth-generation Santa Ynez Valley resident whose Solvang roots stretch back to the town’s founding years. Solvang’s Danish Maids serve as a sort of goodwill ambassador during their year of service, making public appearances to promote Solvang and the city’s spirit of hospitality.
Danish Days has a long-standing family history for Heron. In 1961, her grandmother, Ann Nielsen, was the first to hold court as “hostess” for Danish Days, a precursor to the Danish Maid role. Heron’s older sister, Angelique, was named 2014 Danish Maid; older sister Gabrielle was 2017 Danish Maid; their mother, Betina, was Danish Maid in 1988; and Heron’s cousin, Natalya Nielsen, served as the 2016 Danish Maid. Heron’s great uncle, Don Nielsen, was chairman of the Danish Days board 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. Heron’s uncle, Rodney Nielsen, has volunteered for Danish Days for the past 30-plus years. He has served on the Danish Days Foundation board for the past 13 years and served as co-chair of the board in 2013.
One of Danish Days’ continuing traditions is the weekend’s pair of Aebleskiver Breakfasts, served right in the middle of town — a tradition that began with Heron’s great-grandfather, Axel Nielsen, who was in charge of the breakfasts for many years until Heron’s grandfather, Roger Nielsen, took the helm. Heron’s uncle, Rodney Nielsen, is the breakfast chairman.
“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 … 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.
The 2018 Solvang Danish Days event weekend schedule is available online. Click here for more information.
— Anna Ferguson-Sparks is a publicist representing Solvang Danish Days.