Longtime Solvang teacher, volunteer honored as grand marshal

SYV Star Staff

Several generations of Solvang Elementary School students can recall having Petti Pfau as their teacher, and the retired Solvang resident feels honored to have taught at the school for 28 years.

Those who still live here or come back for the annual Danish Days celebration will see her again this year, as the grand marshal of the Danish Days parade on Saturday, Sept. 16.

“I loved all my students, and since I volunteer a lot for local organizations I get to run into some of them that are still here. This town and valley is like no other place I’ve been. It’s such a beautiful small community that really loves to be involved,” she said.

Pfau said she is honored to have been chosen as the grand marshal, especially because so many other people deserve the distinction.

The Danish Days Foundation chose Pfau due to her long-running involvement with Danish Days – as well as her support of, and activity with, numerous other community organizations and nonprofits, with a strong emphasis on education, the arts, children’s and women’s issues.

She settled in Solvang in 1982, when she built the home she still lives in.

Her history with Solvang Danish Days dates back almost 30 years, to when she started coordinating and growing “Kid’s Korner on Saturday and Sunday of Danish Days in Solvang Park.

The Kid’s Korner usually boasts a LEGO activity area, a supervised play and rest section, and booths and activities sponsored by multiple nonprofit and community organizations. Last year those included a petting zoo from Healing Heart Sanctuary; face painting and dress-up fun by Solvang Faeriefest; a bounce house courtesy of Girl Scouts Troop 50767; games by the Robotics FIRST 3512 Spartatroniks; robotics demonstrations by the Patterson Road Elementary School Panthertroniks; and snow cones sponsored by National Charity League.

“I ran the Danish Days Kid’s Korner for about 28 years, and along the way I met such lovely people offering their time in support of Girl Scouts troops, Lions Clubs, the National Charity League. I cherish the memories and the relationships I’ve built through my involvement in Danish Days,” Pfau said.

She also served as the Director of Teacher Programs at the Santa Barbara County Education Office under long-serving County Superintendent Bill Cirone, and she taught extension courses for California Lutheran University for teachers trying to earn career units.

Not one to sit still, Pfau balanced her career in education with side jobs in hospitality, working at The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort on weekends, as well as at The Alisal River Grill.

Pfau has tirelessly supported nonprofit organizations and continues to be active in the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, working its women’s and children’s programs.

Also a long-time supporter of the arts, she is the chairwoman for the Scholarship Program of the Santa Ynez Valley Arts Association, which each year awards a scholarship to a graduating Santa Ynez Valley high school student who is continuing his or her studies in the arts.

Pfau’s personal pursuits are also grounded in the arts. She has been a ceramicist for about 55 years as well as a painter. In her painting, she has worked with acrylics and has recently started with watercolors. She also crafts jewelry and is an avid global traveler. In the past five years or so, she has become particularly enamored with Southeast Asia.

Pfau was raised in Santa Barbara and attended college at San Francisco State University. Her family is of Polish and German descent.

“I have a feeling that some of those Vikings made it down to my ancestors’ homelands,” she said. “I love history, especially Viking lore. Danish Days furthers that love for me, and it also gives nonprofits a chance to gain awareness and to raise very necessary funds.”