Youngsters embrace Greenville’s Danish culture through new camp

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:08 am on Monday, July 01, 2013

Hjordis Jacobsen-Batt, who migrated from Denmark to the United States when she was just 11, teaches a group of campers attending the Danish Youth Camp about the Danish language Friday at the Danish Brotherhood Hall in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — The history and heritage of the Danish culture that surrounds the Greenville area is maintained and celebrated throughout the year by many dedicated members of the community.

But as time passes, those with knowledge of the traditions and events that help designate Greenville as the “Danish Festival City” move on, and it’s up to younger generations to keep the Danish sprit alive.

That is why Danish Cultural Center of Greenville President Nels Hansen orchestrated the first annual “Danish Youth Camp,” a three-day camp to help teach youngsters why Greenville boasts so much Danish pride.

“I think it’s just a good idea getting the youth involved,” he said. “The Danish brotherhood and sisterhood, their numbers are dwindling, people are just getting too busy. I’m very proud of my Danish heritage and I’d like young people to be able to experience it as well.”

In its inaugural year, 14 campers have met for four hours each day, participating in activities to help expose them to the Danish culture, as well as tour historic areas of town, such as the Little Mermaid statue and Flat River Museum.

Danish Youth Camp Chairwoman Carol Hansen said the campers have experienced some of the Danish culture through singing, dancing, language, crafts and food.

Campers attending the Danish Youth Camp dance to a Danish tune Friday at the Danish Brotherhood Hall in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“We’ve tried to incorporate everything we can think of,” she said. “These kids don’t know why there is a Danish Festival in Greenville or why we talk about Denmark. We want them to understand the Danish Heritage and we hope that they one day pass it on as well.”

Nels Hansen arranged for a few special guests to offer their insight, Jonna Easterby of Sarnia, Ontario in Canada and Hjordis Jacobsen-Batt of Grand Rapids, who were both born and raised in Denmark.

“The only way the Danish culture is going to survive is with this generation,” Easterby said. “They have to learn about our heritage at this young age before they may lose interest.”

Easterby arrived from Denmark when she was 26, and has held her Danish roots close while living in Canada. Jacobsen-Batt arrived when she was just 11.

Looking around the city, Easterby said she was impressed with Greenville and its ties to Denmark.

“I’m a past national board member of the Danish Sisterhood of America and Greenville is pretty amazing,” she said.

Easterby spent the afternoon teaching the campers about the vikings who came overseas to North America hundreds of years ago, as well as the old Rune Alphabet.

On their last day of camp Friday, several campers were already asking if they could attend again next year.

“I’ve had a lot of fun making new friends,” Ruby Rockburn, 7, of Greenville said. “I’ve also learned new Danish words, like that ‘mother’ is ‘mor’ in Danish.”

Even Ditte Hansen, 9, and daughter of Nels Hansen, said she learned several new elements about the Danish culture that she hadn’t known before.

“I also learned that some words, like ‘dad’s sister’ is ‘fars søster’ in Danish,” she said. “But I’ve made two really good friends here as well, that’s been my favorite part about camp.”

Nels Hansen said he plans to hosts the camp again, citing the camp’s first year as a “success.”

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