Ken and Allie Andersen, of Nielsen Building Materials, have been chosen as this year's Solvang Danish Days grand marshals by the Solvang Danish Days Foundation for their dedication to the community — and Nielsen Building Materials' years of support for the Solvang Danish Days infrastructure, set-up and clean-up.

The duo will preside over the 83rd annual family-fun weekend, slated for Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 22, along with this year's Danish Days maid Gillian Nielsen.

“It is an honor to be recognized for participating in an event that has been a family tradition my entire life,” said Ken Andersen, alongside his wife Allie.

Outlining his family's Valley lineage, Andersen said his ancestors arrived in Solvang around the time of the town’s founding, in 1911 and 1912.

His great-grandfather on his grandmother’s side, he explained, moved the family from Ferndale, California to the budding Danish-American settlement.

C.V. Nielsen, his grandfather, arrived in Solvang in 1917, after immigrating to the Midwest from Denmark a few years earlier, and met Anna Roth. Roth was the daughter of John and Thora Roth, who were among the first settlers in Solvang in 1911, according to Andersen.

Being a skilled carpenter, his grandfather Nielsen established the family business, Solvang’s Nielsen Building Materials in 1932.

C.V. and Anna had two sons, Daryl and Alton, who worked for the family business, and a daughter, Thora Mae, whose husband Andy Andersen joined the team.

Andersen further explained that his father, Andy, eventually became Nielsen Building Materials’ manager, the position which he himself now holds.

091219 Danish Days 2019 Grand Marshals 3

In the 2018 Danish Days parade, Nielsen Building Materials won best overall best for their mermaid-inspired float.

Passing down tradition

Andersen reminisces about past Danish Days, acknowledging its remarkable evolution over the years.

“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," Andersen recalled. "I remember people walking through the front door, grabbing a plate of food and walking through the back door to the patio to relax.” 

Since then, Ken and Allie have raised four children Emma, 23 (2013 Danish Days Maid); Mia, 21 (2015 Danish Days Maid); Owen, 19; and Nolan, 15, each relishing the family tradition of Danish Days. 

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“When our kids were small and you asked them about their favorite holidays, they would reply, ‘Christmas’ and ‘Danish Days,’" he and Allie said. "They would probably still give those answers today.”

Allie, whose father retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service, was raised in Lompoc.

She has been working at Dunn Middle School for the past 10 years.

“We have definitely had a busy life," Allie said, further adding, "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 Andersen serves on the Santa Maria Fairpark Foundation Board, and is a Beef Leader for the Lucky Clover 4-H group.

In addition to being involved in the actual Danish Days event, Andersen also donates trucks for the Saturday parade, and each year builds an Andersen Family parade float, a tradition started by the Andersen-Petersen clan long ago.

“As our kids grew, so did our floats," he said. "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."

Andersen's sister, Donna Ineman, and his friend, Matt Farris, he says, are key in bringing the float-building ideas to life.

"And of course, there’s music," he added. "We always have festive music to go with our float so we can dance with the spectators.”

Working with 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.

He said a few years ago, the team rigged a functional zip-line from one truck to another.

As Danish Days weekend approaches, Andersen said he and his colleagues are fast 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.' 

“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," he said. "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 preliminary 2019 Solvang Danish Days event weekend schedule can be found at www.solvangdanishdays.org

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Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News.