After two-year hiatus, event’s theme is ‘Velkommen Igen,’ meaning ‘Welcome Again’
Thousands of people crowded Solvang on Saturday for Solvang Danish Days, which returned after a two-year hiatus. The 2022 Solvang Danish Days theme is “Velkommen Igen,” translated “Welcome Again,” celebrating this year’s event, which honors the 1911 establishment of Solvang by Danish-Americans.
This year’s Solvang Danish Days Parade was led by the Danish Days Maids. For the first time in the festival’s 85 year history, it has three maids, one for each year from 2020-2022. The 2020 Danish Maid is Isabella Lopez, the 2021 Danish Maid is Kayla Bandel and the 2022 Danish Maid is Aleena Madrid.
In another set of firsts for the festival, Ms. Bandel, age 32, will make Danish Days history as the oldest Danish Maid to hold the title, which is more traditionally bestowed upon a high school senior, while Ms. Madrid serves as the first third-generation Danish Maid, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother Ashlee Madrid (Danish Maid in 1999) and Glenda Jaeger Madrid (Danish Maid in 1971).
The other parade entrants were as follows: Randel McGee as Hans Christian Andersen, Vikings of Solvang, The Klitgaard Family Celebrates Danneborg, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Danish Dancers from Utah, Central Coast Vietnam Veterans of America Post 982 Riders Group, Chivalry at its Best, Atterdag Village of Solvang, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and Office, Nordhoff High School Ranger Marching Band, Fossemalle Dance Studio, EVXP, Kay Dominguez and the Santa Ynez Valley Jazz Band, Charlie and Lisa Webb, Allen Laugesens’ Nimbus Motorcycle Club, Carlsberg Wagon and The Andersen, Farris, Ineman Beehler and Kaufman families.
The overall winner of the parade was the Andersen family float which featured a flamingo on top. Fossemalle Dance Studios won best family/group entry; the Nordhoff High School Ranger Marching Band won best musical entry; Carlsberg Wagon won best equestrian/live animal entry and the Solvang Vikings ship won best miscellaneous entry.
“It was very jolly and very upbeat. It was really exciting to see the three maids all in a row. Each maid was in their own car at the beginning of the parade. It was very high-energy. Everyone had a rest for two years so this was the grand return of everything. Danish Days is the most Danish time of year in Solvang … It was pleasantly surprising to see so many spectators. The town is just full of life right now,” Anna Ferguson-Sparks, media relations director, told the News-Press.
An annual part of Danish Days is the Aebleskiver Eating Contest. Aebleskiver is a Danish baked good. In Solvang, they are sold and eaten year round, but in Denmark they are only eaten during the holidays. Solvang aebleskivers are generally eaten with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. The annual eating competition is a five minute, no hands eating competition. The competition consists of two age categories: 16 and under and above 16. The winner of the 16 and under age category was Seren Hanrahan (12) from Pleasanton, CA, who ate 11 aebleskivers. The winner of the above 16 age category was John Cambell ( 32 ) from Solvang, who ate 10 aebleskivers.
“It’s fun people get really into it, we have one man who comes every year from Ventura County. People love it and the kids love it,” Ms. Ferguson-Sparks told the News-Press.
A new facet of this year’s Danish Days is a pro LEGO Building Competition, following an inaugural Solvang LEGO Building Competition last April.
“Due to the success of the April competition, we were asked to come back for Danish Days. We were so grateful and super excited to be back,” Allyson Gail, LEGO Event Coordinator, told the News-Press.
The winners of the previous competition were invited for this competition. One of the previous winners was unable to participate due to being out of the country and so Bryan Furks from Season 2 of “LEGO Masters” was invited to participate. The competition has a Hans Christian Anderson theme, where each builder is assigned one of Andersen’s fairy tales and instructed to build their own interpretation. Tiffany Villarreal got “The Princess and the Pea,” Bryan Furks got “The Little Mermaid” and Chris Wight got “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
“We have the builders start from scratch, each at a different location in Solvang. Anyone who comes gets to see professionals building in real time,” said Ms. Gail.
The winner will be announced this afternoon and will earn a $500 prize. The Lego User Group LA branch will be giving away a few minifigures and sets, specifically at Mr. Wight’s tent and Ms. Villarreal’s tent.
“We are really thankful and grateful that they have asked us to come back. The town is beautiful and feels like a second home. The people are so nice and welcoming. The weather is great, everything is perfect,” Ms. Gail told the News-Press.
Another fun aspect of the annual Danish Days is Randel McGee’s representation of Hans Christian Andersen. Randel McGee has been representing Hans Christian Andersen during Solvang’s Danish Days since 2000. “What I do is I dress in period costume and adapt a Danish-style accent and represent Anderson as if he was alive and telling stories. Anderson was a lively storyteller. I try to give people an idea of what it was like to have Anderson in their living room telling stories,” Mr. McGee told the News-Press.
Danish Days is continuing today with more events including the TV children’s parade. To view a schedule of events go to https://www.solvangdanishdays.org/event-schedule/.