GREENVILLE — A lifelong Montcalm County resident who has not only taken pride in her family and its heritage, but has celebrated it with the start of the Danish Festival, has been announced as the 49th Danish Festival grand marshal for 2013.
Catherine “Kate” Hansen (Larsen) has been selected to represent this year’s festival.
“I am honored,” said Hansen, adding she was surprised when she was asked to be grand marshal.
Hansen was nominated by her granddaughter Trisha Freize first in 2012 and then again this year. Although Hansen was selected last year, she declined the offer due to health issues. However, this year, after Freize nominated her again, Hansen accepted the title.
“Within our family, she is a true matriarch,” Freize said. “She is an amazing female figure.”
Both the Hansens and Larsens, who were farmers, came from Denmark in 1872.
“They came to America so they could worship as they wanted, could have a say in the government that governed them, could own land and could be their own boss,” Hansen stated in a letter about her family.
Hansen’s grandparents Mads and Hannah came to the United States from Denmark and landed in New York. From there they took a train to Trufant, purchased land where Tamarack Creek crosses M-46 halfway between Amble and Lakeview and had 11 children, two of which died as infants.
After growing up in the Amble and Lakeview area living on the family farm next to Lena Meijer’s (Rader) family farm — who Hansen became close friends with — Hansen went on to the Ferris Institute where she spent a year studying.
From there, Hansen moved to Greenville, married John “J.B.” Hansen (now deceased) and worked for companies like Gibson, Greenville Floral, Walt’s Gun Shop and Rural Bottle Gas.
Hansen lived in the Greenville area since 1939, where she raised her three children, Gary, Jan and Holly. Because she moved to Greenville in her early years, she was present for the first Danish Festival held 49 years ago.
“I have been to practically every parade and festival,” Hansen said.
During the festival, Hansen’s daughter Holly walked in the parade and years later, Hansen’s mother-in-law was named grand marshal.
“I am looking to make it a fun thing,” said Hansen with a smile while thinking about the events she will also be attending as the grand marshal. “I look forward to the memories (the experience will bring).”
Freize said Hansen has not only been a strong role model within the family, but a “Danish mother.” She hopes by having her grandmother as the grand marshal, she can act as the “Danish mother” for those who attend.
“I am very proud to be selected,” said Hansen, noting most of her children and eight grandchildren have already planned to come home to watch her in the moment.
In Freize’s nomination letter, she predicted how her grandmother would feel and act if chosen as grand marshal.
“Kate would be so tickled to follow in her mother-in-law’s footsteps to become the Danish Festival grand marshal,” Freize said. “She would be a smiling, waving, giggling and friendly ambassador for all proud Danes and could spread cheer in all of her responsibilities as grand marshal.”
Hansen’s first grand marshal appearance will be in July at the Danish Festival breakfast.