GREENVILLE — This year’s Danish Festival was a lot of fun for Lis Jensen and Vicki Angelika Thygesen Jensen, both of whom were visiting our city from Denmark. But according to Lis, the celebration didn’t exactly mirror the typical Danish lifestyle.
“There was nothing remotely Danish about it,” Lis said. “Maybe the æbleskiver, but we only eat æbleskiver at Christmas.”
Lis and Vicki were in town visiting Greenville resident Nels Hansen, a distant relative, and despite the festival’s alleged dearth of authenticity, both said they had a great time.
“The festival was much bigger than I was expecting,” Lis said. “The parade was wonderful. I like all the old cars and the men walking down the street way up high on the stilts; I like to see that.”
Vicki, reserved at age 15, added she enjoyed her visit to Greenville as well. “It’s been fun,” she said. For Vicki, that comment counts as a protracted soliloquy.
Lis, on the other hand, has plenty to say about the United States, Greenville and the Danish Festival in particular. Other than the outsized scale of everything stateside, Lis said, the differences between her hometown of Feinsmark and Greenville are not that great.
She was surprised to see so many homes constructed of wood; in Feinsmark, the majority of homes are built of stone. Construction dissimilarities extend to churches, as well. Those in Denmark are typically built with the altar facing east.
“That’s because the east is where the sun rises,” Lis explained. “That’s the way churches are everywhere in Denmark. It was strange to see churches facing other directions here.”
This was Lis and Vicki’s second visit to the area; last year they flew over in April and were treated to a week of non-stop rain, which Lis called “typical Danish weather.”
According to Nels, he and Lis are “shirttail relatives” who only met through Lis’ extensive study of genealogy. Since first getting in contact with each other several years ago, the two have become close, mostly via email messaging.
Nels said his Danish guests enjoyed most everything about their stay and were able to adjust to life in the States with little trouble. The only thing that kept Lis and Vicki amazed — other than the fact a pair of jeans can be purchased here for $15, rather than the $250 price tag found back in Denmark — was the sheer size of things.
“We drove to Shipshewana, about a two-and-a-half hour drive,” Nels said. “They were both surprised at how much bigger our state is than Denmark.”
“The roads and the area are so much bigger than I expected,” she said. “There is quite a lot here that is quite a bit like Denmark, but if you drive for that long, you’re out of the country. The distances are just so much bigger.”
Both Lis and Vicki speak English with virtually no discernible accent, owing in large part to the fact English is a required course in the country’s public schools system.
“You have to learn English in school for at least two years,” Vicki said. “Also I watch a lot of English movies.”
As to the Danish Festival, Lis said she enjoyed just about everything, from the parades to the music to the food booths.
She does admit to one disappointment, however.
“Corn dogs,” she said. “You should come to Denmark if you want to have a corn dog. The bread is the same, but the meat inside, the meat is much, much better.”
Despite this glaring corn dog disparity, Lis said she and Vicki will likely visit again soon.
“Next time I would like to join the Hugili Huddle,” she said. “They are a singing and dancing group.”
Nels added that the two would always be welcome to stay with him during future Danish Fests.
“Some people complain that our festival isn’t very Danish,” Nels said. “But I think it was a little more Danish this year because Lis and Vicki were here.”