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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 8th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 19

Elverhoj Museum of History and Art reflects on traditional Solstice Sundowner fundraiser over the years

By CALEB WISEBLOOD

In an alternate reality devoid of COVID-19, June 20 would have marked the eighth annual Solstice Sundowner Benefit Partytraditionally hosted by the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang every summer to celebrate each year’s longest day. 


Sunrise to sunset
For more info on the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art and its annual Solstice Sundowner Benefit Party, call (805) 686-1211 visit elverhoj.org.

SUMMER LOVIN’
June 20 would have marked the Elverhoj Museum’s eighth annual Solstice Sundowner Benefit Party, a fun gathering to celebrate the longest day of the year. Although the fundraiser was canceled this year, all of the event’s sponsors converted their sponsorship costs to general donations.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ELVERHOJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ART

Although the fundraiser was inevitably canceled this year, all of the event’s sponsorsincluding Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate Co., Montecito Bank and Trust, The Copenhagen House, and several other organizationsconverted their sponsorship costs to general donations.

Esther Jacobsen Bates, executive director of the museum, was able to host a much smaller gathering with a handful of other Sundowner Committee members this year, compared to the benefit’s usual 150-plus attendees. 

“I just couldn’t let the date go by without festivities to mark the occasion. And though we didn’t have live music or a bonfire, it was special to share a sunset toast to reminisce about the fun we shared at the benefit parties through the years,” Bates said.

Reminiscing on the history of the fundraiser, over the course of almost a decade, Bates recalled the first event’s outcome as a particularly fond memory. 


BURNIN’ FOR YOU
A large fire ring accommodates the lighting of the Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Eve) bonfire, a highlight of traditional Danish solstice festivities, during Solstice Sundowner Benefit events of the past.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ELVERHOJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ART

“The first year stands out for the work it took to create an intimate party space for 150 in the middle of a vineyardand how beautiful and successful the event turned out to be,” Bates said. “There were so many toasts and smiles. For the committee, it was both hard work and lots of fun.”

Still, the museum proceeded with a bit of caution into its first Solstice Sundowner Benefit Party, Bates explained, as there was some initial apprehension within the event’s committee.

“We held our breath as we announced the party the first year, concerned there wouldn’t be enough interest to make it a success,” she added. “Were we wrong! The event quickly sold out.” 

If there was ever a prototype that preceded that first Solstice Sundowner though, Bates explained, it was the Sundowner at Elverhoj fundraiser held in 2009, in conjunction with the museum’s Out of Africa photography exhibition. The event’s success inspired the museum to consider an even larger venue for future fundraisers.

“It was great fun, and we wanted to build on the success of the event, but we also knew that the museum backyard wasn’t big enough for the type of event we imagined,” Bates said. “So we began the search for a location that matched our concept.”


LAKESIDE SEATS
The Solstice Sundowner Benefit Party is traditionally held in a private vineyard just outside of Solvang, which Esther Jacobsen Bates, Elverhoj Museum’s executive director, described as the perfect venue.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ELVERHOJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ART

The Solstice Sundowner Benefit Party is traditionally held in a private vineyard just outside of Solvang, which Bates described as the perfect venue, “with its expansive lawns under a canopy of heritage oaks along the edge of a small lake.” 

The vineyard sits on a parcel of land formerly owned by one of Solvang’s founders, J.M. Gregersen. The surrounding property has belonged to the Gregersen family since the earliest days of Solvang as a Danish colony. J.M.’s grandson, Erik Gregersen, serves as the chairman of the Sundowner Committee.

“Our goal was to have the party at a site that was part of the original Solvang colonysomewhere beautiful and privateand have it revolve around Danish solstice traditions,” Bates said.

The vineyard even has a large fire ring, she added, which accommodates the lighting of the Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Eve) bonfirewhich Bates considers the highlight of traditional Danish solstice festivities. 

Aside from the bonfire, which closes the party around sunset every year, attendees of the fundraiser enjoy live music, dinner, wine tastings, and both a silent and live auction, with proceeds supporting the Elverhoj Museum’s diverse programming.


RAISE A GLASS
Solstice Sundowner Benefit events in the past have included live music, dinner, wine tastings, and both a silent and live auction, with proceeds of the fundraiser supporting the Elverhoj Museum’s programming.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ELVERHOJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ART

Like Bates, Jody Williams, who took on the role of assistant director at the Elverhoj Museum in 2018, didn’t let the Solstice Sundowner’s cancellation keep her from celebrating this year’s solstice in a more intimate, social-distance-friendly fashion under the longest day’s sun. 

“This June 20, I carried on our solstice tradition of merrymaking with good wine, food, and friends by enjoying the evening at our friends’ house with pool time and dinner,” she said.

One thing that made the small solstice gathering special to Williams was getting the chance to witness a unique post-quarantine reunion, she explained.

“We had four adorable childrenone ours, three our friends’running around, absolutely thrilled to be in each other’s company after so many months of not seeing each other,” Williams said. 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to hear how you spent the longest day of the year at cwiseblood@santamariasun.com








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