Santa Ynez Valley News ~ Stephanie Pedersen named 2023 Solvang Danish Days Maid: ‘I feel like I am living a fairytale’

Lisa André | July 19, 2023

Santa Ynez Valley News: Stephanie Pedersen named 2023 Solvang Danish Days Maid: 'I feel like I am living a fairytale'

Fourth-generation Solvang resident Stephanie Pedersen is the third Danish Maid in her family, following Lisa Larsen Pedersen, 1977, and Janet Pedersen, 1974. Pedersen, 17, is a senior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School and will preside over the 2023 annual Danish Days celebration in September.
{Photo Credit: Mike Mesikep}

Fourth-generation Solvang resident, Stephanie Pedersen, has been named 2023 Danish Maid and will preside over this year’s 86th annual Solvang Danish Days event, the Solvang Danish Days Foundation has announced.

The three-day celebration — this year themed “Kom Sammen” or “Come Together” — pays homage to the town’s Danish heritage since its founding in 1911, and is slated for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 15-17. The weekend features authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment, and family activities.

“Even before I could read a calendar, I knew Danish Days was approaching when I would hear my dad practicing his trumpet — and I’d help him prepare the Carlsberg Beer Wagon for the big weekend,” said Pedersen, 17.

Pedersen is a fourth generation Solvang resident with Danish roots tracing back to Djursland and Egtved, Denmark on her paternal side. Her family for more than 60 years has remained heavily involved in Solvang’s annual Danish Days tradition, beginning with her grandfather, Bo Pedersen, who founded the Solvang Village Band and handled the printing for Danish Days at Viking Press.

Her father, Bruce Pedersen, and his siblings — Janet, David, and Raelynn — also performed gymnastics in past Danish Days celebrations from the time that they were kindergarteners. And as a teen, Bruce Pedersen began assisting with Danish Days set up and running the annual event, and later joined the Solvang Village Band, which famously performs throughout town during Danish Days — perched atop the draught horse-led Carlsberg Beer Wagon.

“I was so in awe watching Saturday’s big parade and will always remember the day I was finally old enough to sit with the driver on the front of the Carlsberg Beer Wagon and wave to the crowds lining the streets,” Stephanie Pedersen recalled.

Her grandmother also played an integral part. Barbara Meisgeier Pedersen for decades prepared Danish Days æbelskiver for festival attendees, a tradition that later was passed down to her aunts and then to her.

“Now I am old enough to join in the tradition of my aunts, cousins, and grandmother by working the æbelskiver breakfasts while listening to the stories that the other women share of past Danish Days,” said the 2023 Danish Maid.

Before taking charge of preparation of the puffy Danish pancake pastry at festivals, Pedersen experienced her first Danish Days celebration in 2006 when she was just four months old.

Some of her first memories of Danish Days include walking in the Friday night Candlelight Parade with family and friends, an annual event that has come to symbolize the passage of another year and a time to reflect on all that has changed since walking the previous year’s parade route, she said.

“When I reflect on my roots and connection to Solvang, I think back to the first Danish immigrants who arrived in America,” Pedersen said. “I can only imagine the feeling of leaving behind your homeland and everything you have ever known to move to somewhere completely foreign, trusting in the hope that a better life awaits.”

Pedersen believes her ancestors relocating to the U.S. “to lead the best life that they could” was a success.

“I am so fortunate to grow up in a place where I am surrounded by my family, history, and culture, serving as part of a community that celebrates being Danish while simultaneously moving forward in the U.S.,” she said. “My family’s stories become my story, and their past becomes my future.”

Danish Maid tradition

Pedersen, a senior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, is pursuing her passion for theater, having been involved in theater since age four and academically since her freshman year in high school. She has acted in all of her school’s theater group plays, and has also been involved in workshops and productions with Arts Outreach, Missoula Theatre Group, and PCPA.

She serves as president of her school’s film club, and is a member of the Journalism Club, GSA, Student Senate, and Future Farmers of America.

Pedersen also follows in the footsteps of those Danish Maids before her, seeking expert tailoring by Solvang seamstress, Roberta Skidmore, to design her maid’s dress.

The special dress, Pedersen said, incorporates textiles handmade by her paternal great-grandmother, Sara Petersen Pedersen, and features fabric doilies, intricate use of handkerchiefs and hand-embroidered monogram cloth that lines the edges of her traditional apron.

“I felt so special helping in the design of this dress and choosing the fabrics for it … it connects my heritage and Danish Days past to Danish Days 2023,” she said. “It has always been a dream of mine to be Danish Days Maid, and I feel like I am living a fairytale now that my dream has come true.”

Danish Days schedule

The preliminary 2023 Solvang Danish Days event weekend schedule and parade application announcement are available at

Leading up to the weekend the Danish Maid will sell “Win a Trip to Denmark” opportunity drawing tickets at the weekly Solvang Farmers Market (Wednesdays) and will make appearances at the Danish Brotherhood, the Danish Sisterhood, the Vikings of Solvang and at Valley Rotary Club meetings to discuss the upcoming events and represent her Danish lineage.

The Danish maid will also be available for media appearances.

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