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From Ringsted to Ringsted

By Staff | Sep 1, 2009

Mark and Anita Larsen and Roger Christensen listen to journalist Asger Ellekrog at the Ringsted American Legion/Community Center Sunday afternoon. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

RINGSTED – The Danish flags were flying high when Asger Ellekrog came to Ringsted Sunday.

And oh how he received a warm, Danish welcome.

Ellekrog, a journalist and television videographer for DR Sjaelland in Denmark, was taking a week-long class in Minneapolis and realized it was just a few miles to Ringsted, Iowa, named for Ringsted, Denmark, a city of 15,000. Interestingly, until two months ago Ellekrog didn’t even know there was a Ringsted, Iowa.

“Whoops, suddenly the city popped up” when he was doing an online search, he said. So he made plans to drop by Sunday to do radio portraits of people in Ringsted and how their Danish roots continue to affect their everyday lives.

A resident of Falster Island in Denmark, Ellekrog visited with a number of Ringsted residents before meeting with members of the Ringsted Danish American Fellowship Sunday afternoon when he interviewed most of the people at the Ringsted Community Center.

Ellekrog also answered a lot of questions from his fellow Danes.

Ellekrog said the topography of Ringsted, Denmark, is similar to that in Ringsted, Iowa, with about the same climate.

He also discussed the impact of the European Union on Denmark. While the Danish economy is certainly interconnected with the European Union, Ellekrog said Denmark still has the krone as a monetary unit. He said the krone has in fact fared very well against the euro.

As far as the international economic downturn, said Ellekrog, “There’s no difference there on the broader scale,” he said. “We are getting through. It’s not that bad but we can feel it.”

While he works for public radio, Ellekrog said reporters have all the freedom they want in covering the news. “The government has nothing to say. We can be as critical as we want and we are,” he said.

While Denmark has controversy over immigration issues, just as in the United States, Ellekrog said it is Moslem immigrants who are at the heart of the issue. He said he disagrees with those who say Moslems cause problems in Danish society.

“It seems to be an issue that’s blown all out of proportion,” he said. “All the Moslems I meet are very nice people.” He said many Moslems were brought into Denmark to provide labor in the 1970s. “It is hard to get a job if you don’t speak the language and don’t participate in the local community,” Ellekrog said.

Ringsteders in Iowa are of course no strangers to their sister city in Denmark. It all started when Marjorie Jensen wrote a check for $10 cash at a bank in Ringsted, Denmark July 20, 1973. That created quite a flurry, and Jensen and her husband, Dale, and two couples were treated like royalty by the bank staff.

In 1975 an entourage of 40 traveled from Ringsted to Ringsted, Denmark, to retrace their roots.

An extensive display was laid out on a table for everyone to view Sunday for Ellkrog’s visit.

Ellekrog was equally impressed by the extensive spread of ethnic Danish food everyone had prepared.

“It looks like a food convention,” he said, amazed.