Danish Days Memories


Danish cultural arts – particularly gymnastics and folk dancing – were a source of great pride for Solvang’s residents. Performances by trained athletes have long been a part of the town’s culture and included in Danish Days activities.

This is the third installment in a 3-day series of Danish Days memories marking what was to have been the 84th annual Danish Days. We celebrate the Solvang tradition of gymnastics with history, photographs and video.

Gymnastics classes at Atterdag College drew many first- and second-generation Danes to Solvang. Women and men students practice at Atterdag Gym, 1927. 

The Danes coming to America brought with them the Scandinavian tradition of gymnastics. Gymnastics classes drew many first- and second-generation Danes to Solvang. The Danish folk school practice of “healthy minds and bodies” was integral to programming at Atterdag College (1914-1952). Public performances inspired a cultural exchange of tradition and ideals.

Viggo Tarnow's Junior Gymnasts perform at Danish Days in the 1960s.

For decades, performances of Viggo Tarnow’s Junior Gymnasts were major Danish Days crowd pleasers. The exhibition of nearly 100 Santa Ynez Valley youth reflected the type of physical education program which continues to be taught in Denmark today.

Viggo Tarnow, pictured at right, came to Solvang from Minnesota in 1924 to teach gymnastics and folk dancing at Atterdag College. Although Tarnow and his family returned to Minnesota after 1927, they returned to Solvang in 1938 to run a highly successful summer school at Atterdag.

Over a span of 60 years, Tarnow taught thousands of children and adults. His children’s gym classes continued to perform at the Danish Days celebration until the mid-1970s. Gymnasts marched to the tune of Tarnow’s piccolo.

Danish Days Gymastics - 1960s (video 2 min.)


Danish Days will resume in 2021 on the third weekend of September. Organized and executed by a team of volunteers which includes locals as well as others who return each year to participate, entertainment will likely include a variety of dance groups and performers. 

We challenge you to stand on your hands, like Tarnow, and say skål!

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