Grand Marshals Ruth Reed and Marvel Linnan

2016 Grand Marshals - 1

By Emilee Nielsen

Daily News staff writer


GREENVILLE — Ruth Reed and Marvel Linnan have been described as “Danes through and through.”

This year, they will get the chance to showcase their Danish heritage publicly as the Danish Festival grand marshals for the festival’s 52nd year.

“They were chosen because they are the perfect example of representing the Danish heritage and that is no joke,” said Pam Jorae, Danish Festival executive director.

This will be the sister’s second nomination in as many years as they were nominated once in 2014, but were not selected that year.

“We didn’t know anything about that at all (in 2014),” Reed said.

The sisters are both highly involved in activities that keep them involved and close to their Danish roots. Both of them are active members of the Danish Sisterhood Society and the Red Hat Society.

“We joined (the Danish Sisterhood) in ’89. At that time, there were certain procedures that scared us to death,” Ruth reminisced.

“We had to go upstairs and there was a women’s room with a hole in the door and you had to be approved for the membership,” Marvel added.

They also contribute to the Danish Cultural Center and were responsible for helping to get that center established within the community.

Born and raised in Fenwick, the sisters grew up two of five children and later a half-sister was born.

Marvel and Ruth’s parents were both Danish as were there grandparents. Their grandmother came to America from Denmark when she was 17-years-old.

As children, their father tried to teach them to speak Danish, as that was his first and only language for a while, but none of it would stick.

“We’re definitely Danish…” Ruth said, and after a moment adds, “Danish American.”

“It’s taken a long time for me to appreciate that,” she said.

In the late 1980s, the sisters won a trip to Denmark that was sponsored by the Danish Festival. Ruth, Marvel and their sister, Marian, went on the trip together.

“We stayed in a hotel right on the channel and we could walk down to see the little mermaid,” Marvel said.

Even though they have not immediate family still located in Denmark, relatives of theirs still live there. Their nephew has visited and their great-niece is currently living there as part of a technological project, according to Marvel.

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The sisters have both volunteered in various parts of the Danish Festival, including Ruth’s contributions to the kitchens with cooking rhubarb, rhubarb pudding and, of course, the traditional aebelskiver.

“The old Danish served them dipped in brown sugar,” Ruth said. “Now we serve them sprinkled with powdered sugar and jam.”

When the sisters were young, Marvel six years old and Ruth two years old, their mother died. Their cousin, Bertha Petersen, taught them both a lot about their mother.

“We are the recipients of her dress,” Ruth said, holding up a picture from a 1966 edition of the Daily News. The picture shows their cousin, Bertha Petersen, posing with another woman while wearing a traditional black, red and white Danish dress. This dress now hangs in Ruth’s home.

The sisters will share the dress and wear it to one of the events, like the Open Air Breakfast. At least, Ruth will.

“It fits her better than me,” Marvel whispered.

In addition to volunteer work with the Danish Festival, both of the sisters are active in local churches, such as St. Paul Lutheran Church and the Dannebrog Lutheran Church of South Sidney. Each year during the Danish Festival, Ruth helps to keep the church open for visitors.

“A lot of our family is resting at the Dannebrog Lutheran Church,” Ruth said.

The sisters will appear at several Danish Festival events, including the Open Air Breakfast and the parade.

The Danish Festival is set for August 18 to August 21.

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