ELVERHØJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY & ART

Rancheros Visitadores Ride Through Solvang

May 13, 1932

In a time-honored tradition, riders and their decked-out horses set out each May for a journey in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The ride includes a weeklong series of encampments highlighting a love of the Old West and the great outdoors.

Los Rancheros Visitadores, or “The Visiting Ranchers” began as a nod to the region’s roundups, rodeos, and fiestas of almost a century before. The first official ride was May 9, 1930; two years later the route was expanded to bring the 90 riders through Solvang.

Riders on the trail, 1930s

Over the decades, the group has grown to about 1,000 and continues many traditions from the early years. Participants range from local ranchers to international leaders. Notable past Visitadores have included President Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, and Clark Gable.

Earliest known panorama of Solvang looking north from the river, 1912

Solvang was founded as a Danish Colony, but it was located in the midst of thousands of acres of ranchland; the cowboy lifestyle was all around and became infused with the culture of Solvang.

Many young Danes, reading at home in the snowy north, were fascinated by tales of cowboys and life in the American West. Among those who came to Solvang were cowboy-rancher Sigvard Hansen, artist Viggo Brandt-Erichsen, and members of the Burchardi, Jacobsen and Petersen families, who were ranchers and dairy farmers. Some Danes worked on local ranches as farmhands and cowboys.

Viggo Brandt-Erichsen (pictured), builder of the home that now houses Elverhøj Museum, participated every spring in the 60-mile ride. It was the longest he was ever away from his wife, Martha “Patt.” In 1954 Viggo was diagnosed with lung cancer. Unable to participate in the ride, he wrote this letter to his Visitadores friends:

The most wonderful capital we can acquire is friends and good fellowship. So when my saddle, in years to come, is empty, my heart will never be cold or lonesome. I have two Paradises on earth. My home with Patt and our children, and the Rancheros Visitadores.”

Sigvard Hansen, Danish flag bearer  

The dairy cows may be gone from the Santa Ynez Valley, but beef cattle still graze the grassy hills, and the cowboy spirit that animated early Solvang remains vibrant today.

Like so many other events in 2020, the annual Rancheros Visitadores ride was cancelled due to COVID-19. It would have been its 90th year. The group’s commitment to fundraising, started about a decade ago, remains strong and they are still raising money to donate for breast cancer research despite the ride’s cancellation.

Stay safe,

The Elverhøj Team

Want to learn more about the history of Solvang?
The Spirit of Solvang book is available for shipping or curbside pick-up. Call 805-686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org to place an order.

$39.95 plus tax
+ $7.95 for shipping

ELVERHØJ MUSEUM of History and Art

1624 Elverhoy Way
Solvang, CA 93463
805-686-1211
www.elverhoj.org

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