Up in the Santa Ynez mountains lies the quaint, Danish city of Solvang, famous for its little shops, windmills, bountiful buckets of cookies and … the Tivoli Wheel? If Solvang voters pass measure L2002, this dream may become a reality.
Retired glass blower Gary Jensen is hoping to heighten the Danish feel of Solvang by building a replica of the Tivoli Wheel, a Ferris wheel found in Tivoli Gardens in Denmark. The proposed structure will have six small fiberglass replicas of hot air balloons circling the wheel.
“It will be a slow ride, like you’re floating through the air,” said Jensen.
Jensen said he plans to build the wheel on his property in Copenhagen Square, the main downtown intersection of Solvang. However, much anti-Tivoli Wheel sentiment exists in the Danish town. Residents, such as City Councilman Jim Groessl, have argued that the wheel’s proposed site is too close to both a common stop for trucks and tour buses, and the Santa Ynez Mission.
“It will intrude on the tranquility of the people visiting the mission,” said Groessl. “[Employees of the mission] feel it will be a carnival act. They don’t want visitors to look over the wall and see the wheel because they think it will take away from the experience of the mission.”
Additional plans for making the Tivoli Wheel more aesthetically in tune with the desired ambience of the town include planting magnolia trees and other flowering plants as a botanical wall between it and the wheel, project architect Larry Thompson said.
“We’ve done everything to make it a real asset to the city,” Thompson said.
Solvang Mayor Ken Palmer said the proposed location is not suitable for a children’s attraction because motor traffic in the parking lot poses a threat. Councilmember Leo Mathiasen said he agreed the location was a poor choice.
“In the proper venue, [the wheel] would be fine,” said Mathiasen. “But it will change the downtown skyline we’ve worked 50 years to create.”
Jensen said he revised the wheel’s plan in order to take that objection into account. In 1994, when the wheel was first proposed , it was slated to be 65 feet tall. Jensen has since reduced the size of the wheel to 49 feet, making it approximately one-third the size of the original Tivoli Wheel. Jensen said building the wheel to be this size will help it better fit in with its surroundings, including another Danish replica called Pizza Tower, which is also one-third of its original.
Groessl said he would support the construction of the wheel in another area.
“We need changes in the city of Solvang to enhance the experience for young people,” he said.
Jensen has high hopes of his proposition passing because it was rejected by such a small margin last time it was on the ballot in 1994. He said he feels the people of Solvang have been better educated on the issues since the last time it was voted on.
“People will express their opinions when they go to the polls,” Palmer said.
As far as money goes, Jensen will not be making any off the endeavor. The Tivoli Wheel will be open to the public free of charge if the proposal passes and is built.
“And if it doesn’t work,” Jensen said, “it will come down.”