Santa Ynez Valley News: Danish Maid Christiana Heron to preside over Solvang Danish Days

by Lisa André | Jun 2, 2018

Christiana Heron, 2018 Danish Maid - Solvang Danish Days festival

Danish Maid honor becomes a family affair as Christiana Heron joins the historical Danish Maid line-up following in the footsteps of her two sisters, mother and grandmother. {Photo Credit: Mike Mesikep}

The Solvang Danish Days Foundation has chosen Christiana Heron as its 2018 Danish Maid to lead the Danish heritage festival in September.

“The women in my family, starting with my grandmother, have all been fortunate enough to hold the position of Danish Maid and have all loved being a part of this annual celebration. I believe that now, it’s my turn to carry on the legacy that my family has enjoyed for so long, and to honor the important roles that women have held in Solvang’s history,” said Christiana.

Solvang’s history of Danish Maids dates back to the 1960s, when Christiana’s grandmother, Ann Nielsen, served as the first “greeter” to the festival in 1961 – Solvang’s 50th Anniversary. After the 50th Anniversary celebration, the post of Danish Maid was officially created.

As this year’s Danish Maid, Christiana joins the family ranks: her older sister Gabrielle Heron was 2017 Danish Maid; her older sister Angelique Heron held the 2014 Danish Maid title; and mother, Betina Nielsen Heron was chosen as the 1988 Danish Maid.

Danish Days began as an event honoring the 1911 establishment of Solvang by Danish-Americans. Christiana’s great-grandfather, Axel Nielsen, was a part of the early beginnings of Danish Days, and her great-great grandparents, Marcus and Andrea Nielsen, who emigrated from Mors, Denmark, were among the early immigrant settlers of Solvang.

Beginning in 1936, when a one-day celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the village’s founding was conceived, Danish Days has evolved into a weekend festival showcasing Solvang’s heritage. This year Danish Days begins Sept. 14 and goes through Sept. 16.

The event celebrating the town’s Danish roots includes authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment and family activities. The 2018 Solvang Danish Days theme “Beautiful Denmark by the Sea” recognizes Denmark’s historical and cultural connection to the sea.

Christiana approached the design for her Danish Maid dress by researching the traditional dresses from previous years. She incorporated design elements from a handful of different dresses, for example, requesting “lots of lace, like my sister and mom had in their dresses,” said Heron, which were based off of a Danish wedding dress.

“I chose to go with a solid color, and mid-length sleeves for the top like my oldest sister, who had based her dress off of the style that would be found in Mors, Denmark, which is where my family comes from,” Christiana said. “Being the youngest to become Danish Maid, I wanted to come up with a dress style unique to me, while also keeping with tradition.”

Christiana’s Danish Maid dress was custom-made and hand-sewn by Solvang resident Roberta Skidmore.

Christiana’s cousin, Natalya Nielsen, was appointed as the 2016 Danish Maid, her great uncle, Don Nielsen, was chairman of the Danish Days Committee in 1953 and her grandfather, Roger, was chairman in 1971.

Also in 1971, Christiana’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. Christiana’s uncle, Rodney Nielsen, has volunteered for Danish Days for the last 30-plus years. He has served on the Danish Days Foundation Board for the last 13 years and served as co-chair of the board in 2013.

One of Danish Days’ traditions is the weekend’s pair of Aebleskiver breakfasts, served right in the middle of town; a tradition that began with Axel Nielsen, who was in charge of the breakfasts for many years until Christiana’s grandfather, Roger Nielsen, took the helm. Christiana’s uncle, Rodney Nielsen, currently holds the title of breakfast chairman.

Born and raised in Solvang, Christiana will be entering her senior year at Santa Ynez Valley Union High this fall, where she participates in varsity soccer, and track and field. She is also a part of her church’s youth group and is on the student leadership team, as well as a member of the worship band. Christiana also volunteers at the humane society, and hopes to move into music studies once she gets to college, possibly majoring in music in worship.

“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’,” she said.

Leading up to this year’s Danish Days weekend, Christiana will sell “Win a Trip to Denmark” raffle tickets at the weekly Solvang Farmers Market. She will also appear at events for the Danish Brotherhood, the Danish Sisterhood, the Vikings and at Valley Rotary Club meetings, to talk about Danish Days events and represent her Danish lineage.

Christiana is also available for appearances to speak about Danish Days for other local boards or committees, or for media appearances. For further Danish Maid appearance details and availability, please contact Brenda Anderson at brendaA [at] rplmanagement [dot] com.

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