Aleena Madrid, Kayla Bandel and Isabella Lopez talk about their dream coming true for the Solvang festival, which starts Friday
Aleena Madrid remembers when she was a young girl in Solvang and seeing that real-life princess: the Solvang Danish Days Maid.
“It was like being a princess at Disneyland, where little kids run up to you, and they’re excited to see you,” Miss Madrid told the News-Press Wednesday.
Miss Madrid, 17, has wanted to be the Solvang Danish Days Maid since she was a girl.
Now she gets her wish.
So do two other young women who have long wanted to be the Solvang Danish Days Maid: Kayla Bandel, 32, and Isabella Lopez, 18. Miss Madrid is the 2022 maid; Miss Bandel is the 2021 maid and Miss Lopez is the 2020 maid.
They will proudly wear the costumes created for them and greet children when the first Solvang Danish Days since 2019 starts Friday for a three-day run of parades, LEGO building, appearances by legendary storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, live music and — of course — the Aebleskiver Breakfasts.
It’s a great time to be Danish, Danish-American (as many families in Solvang are) or friends of the Danish.
The three Danish Maids will wave from the parades — Miss Bandel said she’ll likely be waving very enthusiastically. They will also mingle with the crowds and greet the children in awe of Solvang’s princess.
For Miss Madrid, the role of Danish Days Maid means following in the footsteps of her mother, Ashlee Madrid, the 1999 Danish Maid, and her grandmother Glenda Jaeger Madrid, the 1971 Danish Maid (who was born to Danish parents and made Miss Madrid’s Danish Days costumes while she was growing up).
Miss Madrid, who’s of mixed ancestry, said her mom told her she had fun being the Danish Maid. “She was able to do cooking, helped with the children’s parade and immersed herself in all parts of Danish Days. She was able to do everything and have an insider’s point of view doing it.”
Miss Madrid, a senior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School who works as a student athletic trainer at the football games, added that she’s excited to be in this year’s Danish Days events, including Saturday’s parade at 2:30 p.m.
“I’ve never been part of a parade by myself,” said Miss Madrid, who has participated in floats, including one in which she and others in her family were doing handstands and cartwheels. “My great-great grandfather was a gymnastics teacher at Atterdag College before it became Atterdag Senior Center.”
Sharing Miss Madrid’s enthusiasm for Danish Days is Isabella Lopez, the 2020 Danish Maid.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was very little,” said Miss Lopez, who graduated in May from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and is now a student at Frontier School of the Bible in Wyoming.
“I’ve never seen a festival like this. It’s like a step back in time,” said Miss Lopez, who grew up in Solvang and Buellton before moving to Nipomo at age 14. “It’s like a step back in time.
“My aunt owned a store in Solvang. We would sit in front of the store and have the traditional aebleskiver breakfast,” Miss Lopez told the News-Press. “I liked that it (Danish Days) shares the Danish heritage with a ton of people from different backgrounds. You get tourists from Los Angeles, back East, even Asia and all over.”
She added that her parents are excited about her being the Danish Maid.
She also said she prefers being one of three Danish Maids rather than holding the title by herself. “It’s nice to have the camaraderie. It’s also neat because they (Miss Madrid and Miss Bandel) have a lot of heritage and deep roots in Solvang.
“The town means a lot to my family,” Miss Lopez said. “My great-grandmother was very special to me. She passed away about four or five years ago. To be able to represent the heritage she stood for and passed down on to me and other family members means a lot to me.”
Miss Lopez, who studied nursing at Allan Hancock College and may become a paramedic or earn a youth ministry degree (“I find it works best to wait to see what the Lord wants me to do”), said her great-grandparents emigrated to Canada from Denmark. They decided to visit Solvang before returning to Denmark.
“They never left,” Miss Lopez said, adding, “My dad’s half Danish. I’m a quarter Danish.”
For Miss Bandel, becoming the Danish Days Maid is a lifelong dream-come-true.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for a very long time. I’m very excited,” she told the News-Press. “Being the Danish Days Maid has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl. My cousin was the Danish Days Maid back in the late 1990s. She looked so beautiful. I looked up to her so much, and I wanted it so bad.”
The news she was selected as the 2021 Maid meant a lot to Miss Bandel.
“I cried for a good five minutes,” said Miss Bandel, who had to keep the honor a secret until April after the 2021 celebration was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miss Bandel, who lives in Palm Desert, works there as a cross fit coach, a project manager’s assistant at a construction company and does high-end lighting sales. “I was just about to go to an online school to study interior design and get my design certificate.”
Her parents are Solvang couple Pete and Debbie Bandle.
Her favorite memories of Danish Days include baking aebleskivers with her family, and like others in Solvang, she has found Danish Days to be one big family reunion.
“It’s a time to catch up with all my aunts and uncles and cousins,” said Miss Bandel, a Palm Desert native whose grandparents, Linda and Howard Petersen, met in Solvang.
Miss Bandel added that Danish Days Maids mean a lot to the children, including the 4-year-old grandson of the woman who designed the costumes for her, Miss Madrid and Miss Lopez: Roberta Skidmore.
“He’s the cutest little boy. He said I looked like a princess,” Miss Bandel said, chuckling and praising Ms. Skidmore for the beautiful costumes.
As the oldest of the three maids, the youthful Miss Bandel said, “I’ve made it my duty to be the Danish mom, making sure they (Miss Madrid and Miss Lopez) have everything they need and keeping us on time.
“We’ve all got busy schedules. I don’t know how they do it while going to school. They’re amazing.”
Now, about her enthusiastic waving from the parade.
“I was in the Fourth of July Parade (in Solvang as the Danish Days Maid),” Miss Bandel said. “I had this whole prepared wave and everything., But I got so excited. I was flailing my arms everywhere.
“I was a mess, but a good mess,” the Danish Days Maid said cheerfully.