In addition to my work with NFDA, I am also honored to serve as U.S. Vice President for Rebild. This July 4th I was very proud to be part of this organization with its long history, and the outstanding program put together for attendees in the Rebild Hills. It was very different this year as Covid restrictions forced us to hold the festivities near the front entrance to the park rather than in the hills. But it proved to be a great success even without the traditional backdrop. As this year’s program was offered on a livestream broadcast (you can still see the program at this link - https://live.video-stream.dk/rebildfesten/2021/index.php) hundreds of additional viewers were able to join in the festivities. Like the advent of “zoom” meetings during Covid, the Rebild livestream is another example of how the pandemic has forced us to open up our Danish American programming to a virtual audience. And I believe we are greatly expanding our audience by using this technology.
Our keynote speakers and entertainment were outstanding. Kongressen.com Editor-in-Chief Anders Agner Pedersen told us how former President Kennedy advisor, Danish American Ted Sorensen still inspires us today. And Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen spoke about his journey to become an astronaut…also a story which is inspiring so many children to follow their dreams.
The top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, Chargé d'Affaires Stuart A. Dwyer not only addressed the crowd with greetings from President Biden, but Dwyer and his staff were present at all of the Rebild events leading up to the festival. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen sent greetings via video, as did Danish TV2 correspondent in Washington D.C. Jesper Steinmetz. And entertainer Erann DD was fantastic!
Like many Danish American organizations, Rebild has struggled during the past years. The annual July 4th event attendance is recently a far cry from 60-70 years ago when Rebild attracted 30,000 or more. We are forced to change with the times, and the pandemic is forcing us to change even more quickly than we may have otherwise. The livestream technology we used this year has the potential to grow our audience to levels we have not experienced in many years.
I would also like to call attention to the incredible support shown to the Rebild organization by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen. Chargé d'Affaires Stuart A. Dwyer and many members of the Embassy staff were on hand not only for the July 4 program, but also events leading up to it. They were highly engaged and showed genuine interest in our efforts. We are planning to hold future discussions with the Embassy on ways we can work together to help the Rebild organization, and grow the July 4th festivities. Tusind tak to the Embassy for their generous show of support and desire to partner with us.
Now Rebild will turn its attention to the upcoming U.S. meeting in Arizona. Although Americans can now travel freely to Denmark, it is not the same for the Danes. Covid restrictions still prevent Danes from traveling to the U.S. Those with dual citizenship have no problems traveling. But there is a chance that it will be late in 2021, or even early 2022 before Danes can travel to the U.S. I spoke to several Embassy staff about this, and at this time, there is only uncertainty.
Nevertheless we will proceed with our plans for the U.S. conference in Arizona. You can see the schedule here. I would like to extend a wide invitation to everyone interested in Danish/American friendship to attend. You do NOT need to be a Rebild member to attend!!! Like Rebild on July 4, this event is open to everyone! And please contact me directly if you have any questions. Tusind Tak! Bruce - firstname.lastname@example.org
In early 2020, anticipating a summer trip, I bought my ticket to Denmark. I began planning my schedule, friends and relatives to see, new places I haven’t seen, all the usual planning. Then in March - well, you know what happened. I instead practiced extreme social distancing backpacking across Colorado on the hike for Danish America.
Advance to 2021 - on March 6th I received a second jab of Pfizer vaccine. The only side effect was a new feeling of optimism in so many ways…including hope for traveling to Denmark in the summer. Knowing it was a bit of a gamble, I re-booked my already paid-for flight leaving in late June. In early June, Denmark removed most of the travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans. And now, here I am on June 24, about to leave for the airport! I’ll travel from Phoenix to London, and then to Copenhagen. I thought it would be worthwhile, especially with the unpredictability of COVID, to journal my trip. I’m sure there will be a few unexpected travel surprises. And maybe, if you are soon planning to go, you’ll know what to expect from my experiences.
My plan is to see a few sights the first few days including the Trelleborg near Korsør, and an invitation to the Herald Bluetooth Guild to which my friend, Danish artist Susanne Thea invited me to join. Then its on to visit relatives and friends near Silkeborg and Hvide Sande. Next to the Rebild festival near Aalborg, followed by a couple days with my friends Benedikte and Poul at their summer house near the Limfjord. Then to Blokhus, followed by the island of Læsø, then my cousin in Aarhus. Finally, I’ll spend the last few days in Copenhagen. All in all, about 4 weeks in Denmark!
It didn’t take long for the unexpected to start happening. Typically, I travel from Phoenix direct to London, leaving a short hop to Copenhagen. Normally a very easy trip. A couple weeks before my departure, American Airlines changed the entire route and schedule. I would now be leaving a day later, traveling from Phoenix to Charlotte, Charlotte to London, and then Copenhagen. The extra stop added several hours to the trip. Changes were also made for my return trip. After London, I will fly to Chicago, and then to Phoenix.
Reading through the travel information, I noticed the UK required a new form I hadn’t seen before - The Public Health Passenger Locator Form. Basically it requires you to enter every detail of your flight including the seat numbers. Ok, I figured there would be some hoops to jump through. I filled out the form online and printed it. No additional cost other than about an hour of my time.
Going through London complicated matters further. England still has strict COVID guidelines, so I needed to get a COVID test within 72 hours of my arrival in London. Had I flown direct to Copenhagen from LA, Chicago or New York, a test would not have been required. CVS Pharmacy offered a test with results in 1-2 days. Well, that was what they said on their website. When I arrived for my test, they then said the results wouldn’t be ready for 3-5 days. Over the next day and a half I waited, hoping for good luck and an early email notification, but it was not to be.
On the morning of June 24, Stacie and I left for the airport, arriving 3 hours before my flight. I told her I would likely be taking an Uber home after being denied boarding without a test result. As she usually does, she gave me a few words of reassurance. We said our goodbyes, and I said I would probably see her in a couple hours. I checked my email - still nothing from CVS. At ticketing, my fears were confirmed - no boarding without a negative test result! Then the ticket agent gave me hope, “If you go upstairs in this terminal, there is a pharmacy that offers rapid tests. You should have time to get one. But it costs $200.”
Well, what else could I do? I went upstairs and got in line. Still no email from CVS. The testing process was fairly quick, with a 45 minute wait for results. The price, however must have just gone up - now $250! As I said, what else was I to do?
With 45 minutes before my flight departure, I had my negative test result. I headed for security fully expecting a long line. Here, my luck changed for the better. I was through security in about 5 minutes, and arrived at the gate just as the flight began boarding! I sent a quick text to Stacie - she replied “I knew you’d be fine”. How did she know? I’ve always suspected she has some kind of serendipitous cosmic connection!
My first leg was uneventful. Masks were required. When I landed in Charlotte at about 5:00PM, I watched as my emails loaded, and right on cue, my test results from CVS! Well, I now have two negative tests so at least that’s reassuring.
It was only a 90 minute wait until boarding my flight to London. Again masks required the entire flight. It was a pleasant overnight flight to London. As we prepared to land, they announced that the arrival terminal had been changed due to COVID. But this was helpful as it was the same as my departure terminal to Copenhagen. Normally you take a bus to change terminals which takes some time.
In London it was obvious that covid restrictions were in full force. Masks, social distancing, and in many years of traveling through London Heathrow, I’ve never see so few travellers. When I checked in for my trip in Phoenix, they were not able to give me my boarding pass for London to Copenhagen. As I found out in London, many if not most travellers did not have their boarding passes, and there was an enormous line at the customer service center. It took me about an hour waiting in line. Many were frantic as they were short on time. But no problem for me as I had a two hour layover. I made my way to the gate and boarded the flight to Copenhagen. Amazingly, after all the changes, worries, and covid, it looked like I would arrive in Denmark right on schedule!
I arrived at Kastrup early in the afternoon on Friday the 25th. As travellers entered the airport, we were stopped and asked, “Have you been vaccinated? Did you receive your vaccination more than two weeks ago?” We weren’t asked to show proof. But at customs, I was asked to show my vaccination card. It was eerily quiet as I walked through the airport. I am used to a festive gathering of tourists and Danes waving Danish flags greeting their visitors. But today, the airport was practically empty. Even the Danish hotdog stand at baggage claim was closed. A new requirement is for a COVID test for unvaccinated tourists every 72 hours, or you cannot enter public places. There were several information stations with staff in the airport. I asked just to make sure. They said that all I need to do is show my U.S. vaccination card whenever I enter museums, restaurants and public places. Covid testing was available as people exited the airport, but was only necessary to unvaccinated travellers. Masks are still required in Denmark when you are on public transit, but otherwise not required.
I took the bus to the rental car center and picked up my car. Leaving the airport on the E20 there was heavy traffic on this mid Friday afternoon. Later on a perfect Danish summer evening, I was having dinner with Susanne Thea at a small outdoor restaurant in Korsør by the harbor watching the sunset behind the Storebælt bridge. Its great to be back in Denmark!
In early April, we concluded a series of 15 virtual programs “Live From Denmark - Photo Tours with Benedikte Ehlers”. We were amazed at the response from so many of you! Over 500 people registered for the weekly programs on Zoom, and the recorded programs have already been viewed nearly 2,000 times! This great response prompted us to build a new YouTube channel to provide the program recordings indefinitely. Already, we see the channel has been very busy! We encourage you to visit our new YouTube channel (click here) and then click “subscribe”. When we have 100 subscribers, YouTube gives us a new “URL” which makes it easier to share the link to family and friends. In the future, when we add new programs to our YouTube channel, subscribers will be automatically notified.
I want to thank everyone who made the programs with Benedikte possible. First of all, thank you to our NFDA Secretary, Linda Steffensen. Linda is also the Editor of The Danish Pioneer newspaper, our partner in presenting these programs. Also thanks to our technical producer, Alice Moore of Moore Business Systems. Alice and her assistant Alex Wynn are an extremely knowledgeable and talented technical duo who I would highly recommend for any webinar or group meetings on Zoom, as well as YouTube channel design. And, Tusind Tak to our wonderful friend Benedikte who amazed and charmed everyone with her astounding presentations of every corner of Denmark. Benedikte is loved by so many, and is truly a treasure to Denmark and Danish America. Finally, thanks to all of you for watching, for all your encouraging and positive comments, and also for the generous donations which helped greatly with the production costs and the design of the new YouTube channel!
YouTube adds one more way we provide Danish American information and programming. We thank you for visiting our website, receiving our weekly newsletter “Whats Happening in Danish America”, following us on Facebook and Instagram, and now watching our YouTube channel. It all helps us reach a larger Danish American audience, which further promotes our Danish heritage! Thank You! Stay safe and well, Bruce
In the Easter season, we feel a sense of hope, new beginnings, and optimism that comes with spring. This year the season is even more poignant as we hope for an end to an historic health threat.
Gradually we are seeing signs of emergence from this long pandemic. The case numbers have been declining, many are receiving the vaccine, and restrictions are loosening. In early March I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. There is a sense of security that comes with the knowledge that you should be immune. The mask will stay on for a few more weeks, but I am looking forward to some limited gatherings with family and friends. Before the pandemic, I would pick up my granddaughter from school every Tuesday. In the last year, I’ve only seen her a few times. It seems that she’s grown up since I’ve seen her last. Those are the types of experiences that this pandemic stole from us.
Meanwhile, Danish America is emerging along with the optimism that comes with spring. At the end of May, Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn is planning a return as “Tivoli Lite” with a limited schedule. Churches are planning for the return of members to the sanctuary. The Danish Home in Chicago is lifting some restrictions. Museums are opening on a limited basis and travel is beginning to open up. Recently I booked my flight ticket to Denmark for this summer. I’m optimistic that there will be a Rebild gathering on July 4. It may be limited, but it looks like it will happen.
There are ways the pandemic has changed our lives. Many of us barely knew about Zoom a year ago. Now, we frequently jump on zoom meetings. It’s likely that we will continue to use this type of technology in the future for Danish American events. Even when gathering is safe, we can expect to see Zoom and Facebook Live to reach audiences beyond the local attendees. This is a positive consequence of the pandemic. When we formed NFDA, a goal was to help groups reach beyond their traditional supporters. The pandemic forced us to do just that. Maybe we can continue to reach new audiences with this technology - especially younger people, expand the Danish American audience, and preserve and promote our heritage. Stay safe and well, and God Påske, Bruce
This issue marks the first full year of publication of our weekly newsletter- “What’s Happening in Danish America”. Who could have imagined a more eventful year?
Last January, we began with one primary goal in mind- to strengthen our Danish American community by promoting every gathering, activity and meeting of every Danish American organization we knew. Who knew that just a few weeks later, the spread of the COVID-19 virus would disrupt the entire world?
Every Danish American organization was affected and our approach immediately changed. Instead of announcing upcoming events, we announced cancellations and closures, and spread the word about scheduling changes of all those organizations. We hope that information was helpful to everyone.
Other strategies evolved to help strengthen the Danish American community during the pandemic. As travel across the country became risky, we brought exhibits to new venues. When fund raising events were canceled, we created the “Hike for Danish America” to raise much needed funds for all our organizations. Also, our website grew as we strove to engage and better inform our new audience. All these efforts brought new members into the Danish American community, preserving and promoting our heritage for generations.
Looking ahead to the “post pandemic” days of 2021, we are ready to serve and we’re resolved to increase the growth of the Danish American community even more effectively. Already in December, we’ve added an Instagram account- @danishamerica instagram.com/danisamerica/. This outlet targets younger Danish Americans, broadening our audience.
In the coming year, we will seek sponsors from our business arena to support both the newsletter and our website. All funds raised by these sponsorships will go directly to organizations of the Danish American community. An all-volunteer organization, the NFDA will pass 100% of these sponsorship proceeds on to benefit Danish America. Won’t you please be part of this effort?
Please recommend our website to your friends. Invite them to subscribe to our free newsletter. Although we already reach thousands interested in Danish culture, more subscribers to our newsletter and more viewers to our website will mean sponsorships become more attractive to potential patrons. With the help of each reader, our audience will grow, hopefully double. With growth like that, we could send more support to all Danish American organizations.
Thank you for standing with us this first full year of operation! Your support energizes us to do even more for Danish America. If you have suggestions or comments, please contact us.
Here’s to a better year and a prosperous 2021 for all. On behalf of the National Foundation For Danish America, and my colleagues Katrine Vange, Karin Wasler, and Linda Steffensen, I sincerely wish you a Godt Nytår!
In addition to my NFDA role, I recently began my term as U.S. Vice President for the Rebild National Park Society. As with all organizations, the last year has been a difficult one for Rebild. First, after months of planning, last spring’s U.S. Rebild conference in March was canceled. Then came the cancellation of the 4th of July festival in Denmark. Since the organization began in 1912, this event has never been canceled other than during World War I and II. Now, the March 2021 conference has been postponed, moving it to October 2021. By then, we hope we can finally gather safely for the joyous Danish American events we all adore.
Also unusual are plans for the coming holiday season. Many organizations are planning virtual holiday events using Zoom and other technologies. There is little doubt that churches will live stream Christmas Eve services this year. I have attended some live gatherings in the last few weeks. However, I have found that even when following the protocols of wearing masks, practicing social distancing, using hand sanitizers and other regulations, I could never feel 100% comfortable. Hygge is hard to come by this year.
In general, the feeling of the Rebild board of directors is that a vaccine will be readily available in the U.S. and Denmark by next summer and hopefully before July 4th, most will have access to a vaccine. Meanwhile, we must all continue to act responsibly.
As this year slowly progresses, we dearly miss our family and friends more and more. We tire of pandemic-imposed precautions. We know that maintaining them will be especially difficult during the holidays. So let us not abandon hope. Let us be optimistic that by 2021, our normal lives with begin to return. As I saw recently “We isolate now, so when we gather again, no one is missing”. Med Venlig Hilsen - Bruce
Hiking the Colorado Trail was always something I had in the back of my mind, but I really never thought I would have the time or opportunity to attempt it. Then, the COVID pandemic arrived. My summer trip to Denmark was canceled, and, to paraphrase John Muir, the mountains started calling, so I went!
Prior to beginning the hike, we (the NFDA) decided to make it a fundraiser for Danish America. I knew this would add some pressure for me. As the response to our call and participation in the fundraiser climbed, I felt a huge obligation to complete the 500-mile hike. Failure was not an option! Honestly, it really worried me. Not many 60+ year-olds do this! About one-third way through the hike, my knees and my left ankle were killing me. It was raining every night, and the mornings were a wet mess of swatting mosquitos and packing away drenched gear. In my mind I was composing the reasons why I had to give it up. Then miraculously my knee and ankle pain went away, and the skies cleared up. It was truly an answer to my prayers. I began to believe I could do this. I would just take it a day at a time, and not dwell on the hundreds of miles remaining. Days and miles passed, and the end seemed in reach. When I reached Creede and read so many messages of encouragement on social media, it truly lifted my spirits, and I thank all of you for that! I felt stronger, and each day I enjoyed the majesty of the mountain scenery, and the days became so much more fun. The last 2 weeks of the hike were truly a joy, as I passed through the San Juan mountain range in reach of the finish. Tears welled up in my eyes as I approached the finish to see my “base camp support team” waiting for me beyond an arch of Danish and American flags. There stood my cousin Reed Bro, his wife Jamie, champagne in hand to celebrate!
Beyond being a personal accomplishment, I am most pleased that, together with your help and commitment, we were able to support Danish American organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity and enthusiasm in getting behind this fundraising effort. Thank you for all your pledges and encouragement! My NFDA colleagues - Linda Steffensen, Katrine Vange, and Karin Wasler, and I are truly grateful for your support, and we look forward to many more future projects to support Danish America! Tusind tak! - Bruce
Flashback to the week of March 8, 2020:
-The World Health Organization declares the corona virus outbreak is a global pandemic.
-Hundreds of schools and thousands of businesses close.
-Wall Street suspends trading twice and on Thursday, the DJIA drops 10%.
-The MLB, NBA and all NCAA sport seasons are canceled.
-Music concerts and special events are being canceled around the country.
-Friday the 13th, it suddenly hits home. Our April Rebild conference is canceled.
Having spent months helping plan this event and looking forward to welcoming so many to Arizona, I was stunned by the news. Soon, events were canceling daily across Danish America. The following week, I canceled the family tour I was leading to Denmark. Everyone was in lockdown…isolated at home.
During the lockdown I took to the hiking trails near my house in north Phoenix. For many years I have been an avid hiker; it was so good to get out of the house and stretch my legs. On one of those hikes, I started thinking about backpacking a trail that has been on my bucket list a long time…the Colorado Trail. From Denver to Durango, it winds its way for 500 miles through some of the most scenic mountain landscapes in America. I thought, “This is the time.”
Climbing the trails has always brought me inspiration. As I ambled along, drafting my Colorado Trail itinerary, it hit me, “Why not make this a fundraiser for Danish America?” I brought the idea to the rest of the board of the National Foundation for Danish America: Katrine Vange, Linda Steffensen, and Karin Wasler. They agreed and helped plan it. Now it’s set.
COVID-19 has taken its toll on us in many ways. Danish American organizations have been hard hit financially with event cancellations, and they see their revenue and funding sources beginning to dry up. We would like to help turn that around. Together, we can all make an impact.
It’s simple… First, pick your favorite Danish American organization. Next, pledge either per mile, or for a set amount for the entire hike. When I complete the trip, we’ll send you a notice, post it on Facebook and on our website. Finally, you send your pledge directly to your favorite organization. They receive 100% of the proceeds.
Until then, I’m getting ready, hiking as much as I can! Starting June 29, we will share the fun by posting progress reports, photos and videos from the trail to our website and Facebook page. I should arrive in Durango, Colorado in mid-August, six weeks and 500 miles later.
Won’t you please make a pledge? Your favorite Danish American organization needs your help! Find the link to the pledge form at www.DanishAmerica.org then, follow the “Hiking Viking” on the Colorado Trail!
History is in the making. Significant events happen that we look back on our entire lives. COVID-19, the coronavirus, the 2020 Pandemic; however you name it, we will all remember. Our first concern is the health of our loved ones -- families, friends, and those most vulnerable. May we all stay healthy as we get through this.
Danish America is just like the rest of the world. As you scroll through the postings on our website, you see nearly every event is postponed or canceled. Venues have been restricted in some way. Museums are closed or have restrictions; Danish churches have canceled services; and Danish Homes for the elderly are effectively quarantined to ward off the virus. As well, the annual Rebild National Park Society conference in Arizona is canceled. Almost all Danish American gatherings are affected. We will wait this out until the threat eventually passes.
In a few weeks, we all hope things will return to normal, but it could be longer. Before we know it, festival season will begin in May with Elk Horn's Tivoli Fest. Danish language and family camps are being planned for the Spring and Summer. In addition, many of us are planning to attend the 4th of July Rebild Festival in Denmark. We pray that the next two seasons' calendars will take place as scheduled.
While we abide by the changes required of us, let's keep in "touch". In the words of Victor Borge, "A smile is the shortest distance between two people." So, post your smiles :-), "hygge" with each other, send a "hilsen" using phones and social media. At no other time in history could we be more closely connected while more physically apart. Let's use the tools at our command to lift each other's spirits!
As circumstances unfold in Danish America, we will keep you updated.
Warm regards, mange venlige hilsener, and may this soon be history, Katrine, Linda, Karin and Bruce.
On the first day of 2020, we launched our new website and asked you to please subscribe to our weekly events email “What’s Happening in Danish America.” Not only did you respond in great numbers, you also overwhelmed us with wonderful complements about our new venture. Mange Tak for your kind words and enthusiastic response! We are pleased beyond expectation at this level of success.
Perhaps you are using our events calendar to help with your schedule, or, you’ve found events and organizations near you that you didn’t even know existed. I hope that when you see all the Danish American events happening across the country, you will take part in them, near and far. So much is happening: compelling museum exhibits, interesting lectures, engaging workshops and delightful social events taking place coast to coast! Soon it’s February, Fastelavn month! Already, you will find many activities scheduled to mark a festive beginning of the Lenten season. Across the United States and throughout the spring and summer, wonderful celebrations are now starting to appear on our events calendar. Why not enhance your travels by attending one or more of these on your next trip?
I would like to call your attention to one major event happening this spring. The Rebild National Park Society is holding its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona from March 29 to April 7. “Rebild”, founded in 1912, is probably the oldest Danish American friendship association. For over one hundred years, thousands of Danes and Danish-Americans have come together on July 4th in the Rebild hills near Aalborg to celebrate this relationship at their annual festival. Newly elected president Jørgen Bech Madsen of Aalborg heads the society. In his first year in office, Madsen has brought new energy to the Rebild community, igniting the creation of many new ideas. Rebild is determined to grow.
Membership in “Rebild” is not required to attend the Phoenix conference, or the 4th of July Festival in Aalborg, so everyone is encouraged to attend. You will find the Rebild schedule on our website. As I’ve been involved in planning and meeting arrangements for the conference, feel free to email any questions at email@example.com. Participate as little or as much as you’d like, but please come. Registration is available on our website. We’d love to see you in Phoenix!
Finally, from Karin, Katrine, Linda and myself, thank you once again for your warm reception and enthusiastic support. We each look forward to seeing you at a Danish event very soon!
Find A Local Organization
View the Full Calendar
Make a Donation
Visit Our Facebook Page
Visit Our Instagram Page