September 22, 2011
Danish tourists getting a feel for life in CNY
Group from Denmark touring Cortland County, other areas on trip organized by former mayor
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Danish tourists Flemming Jensen, right, and Bernhard Block, center, visit with an alpaca at Marathon Alpacas off Conrad Road in Marathon.
MARATHON — Many tourists think of New York as full of tall buildings, loud noises, bright lights and taxis.
Over the past week, 21 Danish tourists have gone off the beaten path and taken a tour of rural New York, thanks to two former exchange students.
Former Cortland mayor and city attorney Ron Walsh, organized the tour along with Jens Frode Fogt, a Danish travel agent.
Walsh traveled to Denmark through the Rotary Club’s exchange program in 1975, as a Cortland High School student. Fogt was a foreign exchange student at Marathon High School in 1971. The pair met through a mutual friend and began planning a tour of Cortland County for Danish tourists to show them how average Americans live, Walsh said.
“A lot of them expected tall buildings and cities,” he said. “We’re showing them the stuff you don’t usually see.”
On Wednesday the group stopped at Marathon Alpacas & Fiber Mill in Marathon to tour one of the nation’s largest alpaca farms. The farm, owned by Sam Groome, has over 280 alpacas which it shears for wool every year said Dale Betts, who works in the fiber mill.
“Most farms have about 10 alpacas,” he said. “After this spring’s births, we’re close to 300.”
The farm also sells alpacas for breeding and pets. The wool is sold as knitting material, and is used in clothing, blankets and rugs.
The group took a tour of the city of Cortland on Monday, including the jail, the firehouse and several area restaurants. On Tuesday, they traveled to Penn Yan in Yates County to visit the local Danish Brotherhood and the Danish Sisterhood.
Penn Yan has a large population of people with Danish ancestry, Walsh said.
“They had a great time there,” he said. “They were singing old Danish songs and dancing.”
Fogt’s host mother, Pat Whitehead, came up with the idea of taking the group to the alpaca farm.
The two have stayed in touch over the years and visited each other several times, Whitehead said.
“I even went to his wedding,” she said.
For Hedi Hansen, a weaver from Frederikssund, her first trip to the United States was nothing what she expected.
“It’s all very, very nice,” she said. “I was so surprised by all the big, open country.”
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