Ingrid – June 26, 2017

“Lindsay, you missed a winning celebration,” I told my roommate after I got home from The Danish Home’s Tivoli Gardens and Casino Night on June 24. It was about 10:30 p.m. when I got in, much later than I’d planned, but the summer afternoon and evening were so perfectly beautiful, I just didn’t want to leave.

Rides and fun for the whole family drew hundreds to The Danish Home's Tivoli Gardens and Casino Night on June 24.

Rides and fun for the whole family drew hundreds to The Danish Home’s Tivoli Gardens and Casino Night on June 24.

Lindsay’s grandfather, “Farfar,” lives at The Danish Home. Weeks ago, I’d invited Lindsay to attend the festival I’d helped to plan, but a last-minute work issue prevented her from going. Who works on a Saturday night, right? Computer whiz Lindsay does, as something had “broken” at her start-up firm, and people in Japan would be screaming about it. I’m glad I’m a teacher. No one wants me on a Saturday night.

Even though it’s Lindsay’s Farfar who lives at The Danish Home, it’s my family who’s part of its founding. As I told readers some weeks ago, I discovered that my great-great-great-grandmother, Olivia Rose (GiGi, I call her), was a founding member of The Danish Home. l could almost feel GiGi’s presence on the sun-dappled lawn, smiling proudly at the sound of children’s laughter floating on the summer breeze.

“Your loss,” I told Lindsay, “but Farfar and I had a blast!” From our apartment in Lincoln Park, I had driven the ten miles or so to The Danish Home, arriving around 4:30 p.m. By then, the games, rides (including a carousel reminiscent of the one at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen), food and drink, raffles, and many activity tents were well underway. I had planned to meet Farfar on the west lawn at 5:00, but he was already out there, open-faced ham and cheese smørrebrød and Carlsberg beer in hand.

Roulette and other casino games entertained adults, too!

Roulette and other casino games made the evening a winning celebration!

“Farfar!” I greeted him with a hug. “Where’s your beer?” he asked. Once I had my all-American hot dog and a fresh Carlsberg, Farfar and I found a nice spot near the fountain and chatted about the gorgeous weather. “I’d say there’s a thousand people here,” said Farfar. Turns out he was right, as later I happened to hear some Danish Home Women’s Auxiliary volunteers reporting on the excellent attendance.

On the stage on the west lawn, some men and women in shimmery gold outfits were checking microphones. “The ABBA tribute band,” I said. I’m too young to remember ABBA in their heyday, but I’ve heard of “Dancing Queen” and a few other hit singles. “Aren’t they a Swedish group?” Farfar asked. A quick Google check showed me that, indeed, ABBA is a Swedish group. Not much gets past Farfar.

Once the set began and we settled closer to the stage, I noticed a man dancing and singing along with every word of every tune. “Farfar, I’d say that man is fond of ABBA.” Spying the man, he chuckled and raised his glass. “Or at least those pretty singers!” he remarked. When the band sang its last number, Farfar and I moved to the east lawn to check out the casino games under a big white tent.

“Wanna play some blackjack”? I asked Farfar. “I’d rather watch these guys try to hit that bell,” he replied, referring to the hammer and bell game that several men (and a few women) were giving a whirl. A beefy man named Lars was working on his fifth swing, getting only halfway up. “Is it really that hard?” asked Farfar. Judging from the size of Lars’ biceps, I could only assume so.

“Blackjack?” I prodded again, as we moved closer to the casino games. Real dealers with real tables dealt cards and chips to the many adults gathered around. “I like roulette, myself,” said Farfar. “Isn’t that the chanciest game out there?” I asked. “It is, but some of the best things in life come from taking chances,” he said, his blue eyes shining.

Thus, we found ourselves at the roulette table, with me placing chips on single numbers and Farfar choosing the quadrants. As luck would have it – I kid you not – I hit three single numbers in a row! I promptly turned my winnings over to the casino raffle, which included prizes like a day trip to Disney World, Cubs/Sox tickets, an enormous Lego castle all put together, an original Tivoli Gardens painting, and other great items. All those tickets in the barrel must mean I’ll win something, I thought. Not so, as my name was not among those called after the casino closed.

But the day and evening were a winning celebration nonetheless, made all the more special by spending it with Farfar…and GiGi, too, in spirit. “Thank you for coming, Ingrid,” he said, as the last fire dancer of the evening took a bow. “I wish Linz could have been here.”

“I do too,” I said, “but she’ll be at the next Danish Home anniversary event, “Spirit of Friends: Cuisine and Spirits” on August 10, no matter what!”