This weekend, the Danish Sisterhood will do something it never has before — host a district convention drawing people from the Midwest to the lakes area.
The organization established in the 1800s to help Danish immigrants with social and financial aid now helps their descendents connect with their heritage.
Evelyn Matthies and Joni Hill are founding members of the Danish Sisterhood Amber Lodge in Brainerd, along with former resident and Danish native Susanne Hohlen. Matthies and Hill both have strong Danish family ties.
Both sets of Matthies’ grandparents came from Denmark. Her grandmother worked to start an internationally known art colony in Jutland, Denmark, and was so instrumental when Matthies visited the site she was considered royalty from Minnesota.
Hill’s grandparents left Denmark in 1885, arriving in the Brained area and buying land from the railroad to raise an American family here. For Hill, being part of the sisterhood was a way to reconnect with her family’s roots and learn more about the culture.
“They are very, very artistic people,” Matthies said.
Famous Danes include author Hans Christian Andersen; comedian and piano player Victor Borge; sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen; designer Georg Jensen; and Karen Blizen, author of “Out of Africa.” Walt Disney was inspired for his own creations after visiting Tivoli, a Danish amusement park and garden in Copenhagen. And then there is that classic Danish prince named Hamlet made famous by William Shakespeare.
Food, crafts, travel, Danish culture and history have all been explored through the membership.
Members put together a book with original writings by Danish parents, photos and family histories, music and recipes. The sisterhood group isn’t limited to women and welcomes the interaction of all ages.
Hill said for her the attraction comes from the people, many who first came together as strangers when the group formed in Brainerd in 2004.
“Overall, it’s doing something together and people you enjoy,” Hill said.
The weekend convention brings both the Danish Brotherhood and Sisterhood together. Matthies and Hill said hosting the convention here, with scheduled excursions into the community, is also an opportunity to showcase the lakes area.
The convention rotates through the districts. In 2007, the convention was in the Twin Cities, drawing members from Midwestern states. This weekend about 60 people are expected for the Heartland District Convention Friday through Sunday at the Country Inn and Suites in Baxter, which will be flying the Danish red and white flag. The event is being catered by Northwest Bread and Bagel with entertainment from a clogging group and music with Paul Bloom and Thor Thorson. Matthies provided art for a raffle and a silent auction will feature Danish items and baked goods.
The Amber Lodge, established in 2004, meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Saturday of the month at the Matthies’ art studio in the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd. The lodge gatherings include guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, community service, and Danish crafts, among others.
For more information, go to danishsisterhood.org.