The Danes are flocking to Iowa’s “Danish Villages” after learning about the historic immigrant communities in a Denmark documentary called Danmark på prærien (Denmark on the Prairie) which aired in late August to an estimated 650,000 viewers.
Two Danish filmmakers made several trips to both Elk Horn (pop. 656) and Kimballton (pop. 317) in western Iowa to interview local residents and film the Danish traditions practiced in the communities. These towns were discovered by chance, after one of the directors (Anders Birch) overheard an Elk Horn native speaking Danish in a bar two years ago!
The film also highlights the challenge of keeping traditions alive as the towns’ population ages, the language dies and younger residents move away to larger cities.
Local businesses and attractions were flooded with calls and messages after the program aired with numerous Danes making plans to visit Elk Horn in 2014 for the Tivoli Fest (held annually over Memorial Day weekend).
From the authentic, 165-year-old Danish windmill and vikinghjem (woodworkers or blacksmith’s hut) to a replica of Copenhagen’s “Little Mermaid” statue in Kimballton and the authentic Danish and American flags that greet you as you drive into town, Iowa “Danish Villages” transport you to another world.