In 1936, the first Solvang Danish Days festival emerged in honor of the village’s 25th anniversary. Ever since, Danish Days celebrates Solvang’s heritage with authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment and family activities. In 1946, a reporter from The Saturday Evening Post (an influential magazine of the day) visited during Danish Days and the article that appeared in January 1947 put Solvang on the national map. It 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’.”
In the ensuing years, Solvang Danish Days continued to grow and became a signature community event. In early 1995, the Solvang City Council approached people from long-established local Danish families and other interested groups and recommended setting up a non-profit foundation to formally plan and organize the increasingly popular annual festivities. The original board members of the Solvang Danish Days Foundation were Ken Andersen, Brenda Anderson, Hans Birkholm, Max Hanberg, Howard Petersen, David Rasmussen and Henry Skytt. The Foundation members meet throughout the year to plan and organize the celebration. Donations and volunteers are always welcome; visit “Contact Us” for more information.
Mange Tak (“Many Thanks”, in Danish) to all who serve, host, visit and celebrate Solvang Danish Days!
For more on the History of Solvang Danish Days, visit the Elverhoj Museum.
Solvang’s Silver Anniversary, 1936
Solvang’s most famous celebration is Danish Days, a three-day tribute to the town’s Danish roots. It started with Solvang’s Silver Anniversary June 5 – 7, 1936. The town extended a hearty welcome to visitors: “We are happy that you have come to rejoice with us during the celebration of the founding of Solvang in 1911, and if you feel at home—as we sincerely want you to—it will be because you are at home; at home in a Danish colony celebrating its anniversary in Danish-American manner.” Silver Anniversary weekend festivities started with a torchlight procession and included folk dancing, pageants, plays, a barbecue, street dancing, a banquet, a parade, a picnic, an evening concert. So successful was the Silver Anniversary that Solvang decided to have another party on July 17 and 18, 1937; it was called Nationalfesten Danmarks Dagene (National Festival Denmark’s Days). By 1938 it was simply “Danish Days.” A new and very important Solvang tradition was being established.
Danish Days Through the Years
For many years Danish Days were sponsored by the Solvang Business Men’s Association. There were no Danish Days during World War II, however, when Solvang devoted its energies to war relief efforts. After the war, Danish Days was resumed in 1946 and became so successful that almost 10,000 people crowded into Solvang to help the little town celebrate its Danish roots. Crowds became so big, in fact, that Solvang was unprepared to cope with them and cancelled Danish Days in 1959 and 1960.
Instead, the town concentrated on preparing for its Golden Jubilee in 1961. September 22, 23, and 24, 1961 saw another celebration “to be remembered always.” The fun-filled program included a banquet, torchlight parade, dance and song fest, æbleskiver breakfasts, folk dancing, gymnastic performances, barbecue, art exhibit, a street dance, and a colorful historical pageant parade. Following the Golden Jubilee, Danish Days was revitalized and has continued to be celebrated annually, right up to the present.