Located in Emmet County, the town of Ringsted, Iowa has a population of about 422 people and is known for its Danish-Lutheran heritage. The St. Ansgar Danish Lutheran Church was organized by the city’s original founders in 1882.
In 1894, a theological debate erupted when factions within the national Danish-Lutheran community argued whether activities such as dancing were biblically endorsed. A primary question became whether the Bible or the Apostle’s Creed held sway as God’s truest word. The Danish Lutheran community divided into two groups nicknamed the “Happy Danes” and the “Sad Danes.” Not until 113 years later in 2007 were the two Lutheran factions reunited into the United Lutheran Church.
Ringsted gained particular notoriety in the 1940s when a folk-dance group called “The Happy Dancing Danes” popularized the Lutheran leader N. F. S. Grundtvig’s belief that “amusements such as dancing, dramatics, songs, games, reading of novels and card playing… festivals and celebrations of a social and national character” weren’t necessarily spiritually wrong.