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Trained Reindeer Pull Family's X-Mas Sleigh
'They attract large crowds wherever we go," says Joan Hemker who, along with husband Mark, raises reindeer and trains them to pull sleighs during the Christmas holiday season.
The Hemkers have one of only a handful of reindeer farms in North America. They own 18 head, including five that are harness-broken. They take their animals to community events across central Minnesota during the months before Christmas. The couple owns a sleigh, which can be set up with wheels or metal runners depending on snow conditions. They charge $2 per person for rides.
"We often pull Santa down Main Street for Santa Claus days in small towns," says Joan. "Mark and I and our four children lead the reindeer, but we don't dress like Santa or elves. Santa is supplied by the town.
"Adults enjoy our reindeer as much as kids. Most people are surprised at how small reindeer are. They're only about 41/2 ft. tall at the back. Males have bigger and more majestic racks than the females."
Reindeer are great attention-getters for businesses that want to attract large crowds. At one business opening, the Hemkers gave 400 rides in one day. They also appear at corporate Christmas parties. Once they brought their reindeer to a Christmas wed-ding, pulling bride and groom on a sleigh.
The couple started buying reindeer 6 years ago from zoos and a game farm in Canada. "We made phone calls to Eskimos in Alaska to fmd out how to break reindeer," says Joan. Reindeer can't pull until they're at least 2 years old and fully developed. Only females are used to pull sleighs because
males rut into December and get mean. The Hemkers use a special reindeer pellet feed made by their elevator. Harnesses are custom-fitted by a local harness maker.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mark Hemker, Box 262, Freeport, Minn. 56331 (ph 612 836-2426).

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1993 - Volume #17, Issue #6