Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

July 4, 2014

The American-Danish connection for the 4th of July

CROSSVILLE — It is simply amazing where the Internet can lead you when you begin looking at something from another angle. Happy Independence Day!

As I was casually gazing through articles on our Independence Day, there was a little note about a town in Denmark that celebrates our 4th of July each year. Having Danish ancestry, this was something that just had to be researched.

In 1911, almost 200 acres of hilly countryside in the Rebild Hills, northwest of Copenhagen, were purchased with funds raised by Danish-Americans and presented as a gift to Denmark. The leader in the fundraisers was Dr. Max Henius, who had immigrated to America in 1881 and settled in Chicago. Dr. Henius presented the deed to his Majesty King Christian X as a permanent memorial to Danish-Americans.

The Danish government later added land to form a natural park. Rebild National Park is believed to be the site of the largest annual 4th of July celebration held outside of the United States. Traditionally the U.S. and Danish flags are hoisted while the two countries’ national anthems are played. Other events include speeches, barbecues, square dancing, country music, fireworks and parades. Many Danish-Americans attend this 4th of July celebration. 

The first Rebilt Festival took place in 1912, when King Christian spoke to a crowd of 10,000 people, and it has been celebrated every year since then with the exception of the years of WWI and WWII. American sculptor Geor J. Lober created an emblem for the Rebild National Park in 1912 and made a bronze relief of Abraham Lincoln that is located in the park. 

There is also a small museum called the Lincoln Blokhuest, or log cabin, which is said to be finer than anything Abraham Lincoln would ever have known in his youth. A documentary on the park was made which featured actor Richard Chamberlain. Annually on Advent Sunday, a Christmas market is held in Rebild Park which hosts around 5,000 visitors. These events have helped to make the park one of Denmark’s major tourist attractions.

Now that you have this background, let’s look at the leading fundraiser for the park for a moment. Dr. Max Henius was a Danish-American biochemist who specialized in the fermentation processes. He co-founded the American Academy of Brewing in Chicago. His father, Isidor, founded DeDanske Spritfabrikker, a Danish distillery which is now a part of V&S Group, subsidiary of Pernoid Richard. Absolut Vodka is their largest seller worldwide. Isidor also built a small castle at Aalborg which currently houses a private restaurant. Some of the great-grandchildren of Dr. Max Henius include Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, Christopher Carradine and Michael Bowen.

Before this 4th of July, I need to purchase a Danish flag to fly on my flag pole and think about the Danish-Americans who will be gathered in Rebild Park! My grandmother would be very happy about that. Her brother saw to it that she was buried with red and white carnations and a Danish flag.

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