The Solvang Danish Days Foundation is pleased to announce the 2019 Solvang Danish Days Grand Marshals, Ken and Allie Andersen. The Andersens will preside over this year’s Danish Days weekend, Friday through Sunday, September 20 through 22, 2019.
Solvang Danish Days celebrates 83 years in 2019, and the roots of Ken Andersen’s involvement with the annual event stretch back to the event’s inception. The Foundation bestowed the Grand Marshal title upon the Andersens due to their dedication to Danish Days, as well as their place in, and efforts for, the communities of the Santa Ynez Valley.
“It is an honor to be recognized for participating in an event that has been a family tradition my entire life,” said Ken Andersen, 2019 Danish Days Grand Marshal along with his wife, Allie Andersen.
Ken’s ancestors arrived in Solvang around the time of the town’s founding, in 1911 and 1912. His great-grandfather on his grandmother’s side, moved his family to the budding Danish-American settlement, from Ferndale, California. Ken’s great-grandfather’s hopes for the family’s new surroundings, were for a quality life. Ken’s grandfather, C.V. Nielsen, arrived in Solvang in 1917, after immigrating to the Midwest from Denmark a few years prior. In Solvang, C.V. met Anna Roth, the daughter of John and Thora Roth, who were among the first settlers in Solvang in 1911.
C.V. was a skilled carpenter, a trade which he had learned in Lokken, Denmark. In 1932, he established the family business, Solvang’s Nielsen Building Materials. He and his wife, Anna, had two sons, Daryl and Alton, and a daughter, Thora Mae. Alton and Daryl worked with C.V. to build the family business and in time, C.V.’s daughter’s husband, Andy Andersen, joined the team. Andy’s son, Ken Andersen, would eventually become Nielsen Building Materials’ manager, a position which Ken proudly continues to hold.
Ken and Allie, Los Olivos residents for the past 25 years, have raised four children in the Santa Ynez Valley: Emma, 23; Mia, 21; Owen, 19; and Nolan, 15. The children have been involved with Danish Days since birth, and in the case of the older girls, have even returned from college each year for the annual event.
“When our kids were small and you asked them about their favorite holidays, they would reply, ‘Christmas’ and ‘Danish Days’. They would probably still give those answers, today,” Ken mused. He continued, “They have always had so much fun helping with the event and participating in parades; it’s a highlight for them. Since our kids enjoy it so much, it’s easy to remain so involved in preparing for the event.”
Allie, whose father retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service, was raised in Lompoc. She has been working in the Dunn Middle School office for the past 10 years. Allie said, “We have definitely had a busy life. Ken seems to be involved in everything, but I love that he cares about the community and wants the best for our region and its residents.”
Ken currently serves on the Santa Maria Fairpark Foundation Board, an effort established for the betterment of the Santa Barbara County Fair facilities and hopefully, new fairgrounds in the near future. He is also a Beef Leader for the Lucky Clover 4-H group.
Ken commented about the fact that during Allie’s tenure with Dunn, the family has made many aebleskiver for the school’s annual pancake breakfast. “They are always a big hit and it’s fun to share a taste of our heritage. Aebleskiver are big at our house. Whenever we have weekend guests, I make my grandmother’s recipe using her aebleskiver pan.”
In addition to being involved in the actual Danish Days event, Ken also donates trucks for the Saturday parade and each year, builds a float as the Andersen Family parade entry, a tradition started by the Andersen-Petersen clan, long ago. Ken’s sister, Donna Ineman, and his friend, Matt Farris, are key in bringing the float-building ideas to life. The community, and visitors, eagerly await each year’s movable masterpiece.
Ken added, “As our kids grew, so did our floats. We started to design more detailed floats which often included moving parts. We wanted the kids to be active on the float and we wanted to interact with the crowd, that became our goal. And of course, there’s music. We always have festive music to go with our float so we can dance with the spectators.”
Attempting to stick to each year’s Danish Days theme, the Andersen Family floats have taken on such shapes and forms as a giant, moving aebleskiver pan, with beach balls disguised as aebleskiver. A few years ago, the team rigged a functional zip-line from one truck to another. As Danish Days weekend approaches, Ken and his colleagues are at work on this year’s parade entry, carrying the 2019 Danish Days theme – “A Salute to Denmark’s Flag: Celebrating 800 Years of Dannebrog” – which will showcase the nation’s 800-year-old flag, “Dannebrog”, reportedly the world’s oldest national flag.
In the same vein as the parade floats, Ken’s family has always gone “all in” for Danish Days. His mother ensured that all grandkids donned Danish outfits during the event weekend, most of which have been recycled from Ken’s and his sister’s own childhoods. The only interruptions in the repurposed costume cycle, were when Ken’s daughters took up the title of Danish Days Maid, Emma in 2013, and Mia in 2015, years in which the girls’ dressed in custom creations crafted by Solvang resident, Roberta Skidmore.
“When I was small, Danish Days consisted of my performing with Viggo Tarnow’s gym class and with The Danish Family Folk Dancers. My Bedstemor [grandmother] would always open her house to all the dancers and volunteers. I remember people walking through the front door, grabbing a plate of food and walking through the back door to the patio to relax,” remarked Ken, about his family’s dedication not only to the event, but to others who help to make it what it is, every year.
As Ken fondly reminisces about past Danish Days, he also reflects on the event’s evolution.
“A number of years, I designed Danish Days shirts with Ed Hanson. Working with him is something I will always remember and appreciate. He worked for Disney for quite some time, he was really talented, and he was such a great guy. I still have shirts that he and I designed. It’s interesting to see how over time, the designs changed.”
Ken concluded, “This is our community’s largest event. The celebration is a lot of work for the volunteers, but there is a sense of satisfaction and pride in being involved in something that highlights your community. For as much as I have put into Danish Days, I have gotten twice as much out of it because it has helped me stay connected to the community and all the great people who live here.”
The Solvang Danish Days Foundation wishes to recognize not only the Andersens, but also Nielsen Building Materials for the company’s years of support with the Solvang Danish Days infrastructure, set-up and clean-up.
Parading through Solvang with the 2019 Danish Days Grand Marshals, will be the 2019 Danish Maid, Gillian Nielsen, the Solvang Village Band atop the Carlsberg Beer Wagon, a bevy of floats, equestrians, Village Dancers and more. The Danish Days Parade line-up starts at 1:30 PM on Saturday, September 16, on First Street, between Molle Way and Oak Street; the Parade begins at 2:30 PM, turning east on Copenhagen Drive, then north on Alisal Road, west on Mission Drive, south on Fourth Place, east on Copenhagen, south on Second Street, and finishes at the corner of Oak Street near Solvang City Hall.
Participation in the Solvang Danish Days Parade is free, and Parade applications are available at www.solvangdanishdays.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Danish-Days-Parade-app-2019.pdf.
Congrats, Ken and Allie!
About the Solvang Danish Days Foundation
In early 1995, the Solvang City Council approached Santa Ynez Valley residents from long-established, local Danish families and other interested groups, about possibly setting up a non-profit foundation – Solvang Danish Days Foundation – to formally plan and organize the increasingly popular, annual Danish Days festivities. The original Solvang Danish Days Foundation board members were Ken Andersen, Brenda Anderson, Hans Birkholm, Max Hanberg, Howard Petersen, David Rasmussen and Henry Skytt. The Foundation members meet throughout the year to ready each year’s celebration. Donations and volunteers for the event, are always welcome; please contact the Foundation for more information.