LAFAYETTE COUNTY, Mo. — Reindeer games are set to begin.
Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday season, and a little slice of Christmas magic lives just outside the Kansas City metro.
Miranda Ritter operates what’s believed to be the area’s only reindeer farm.
Even in terms of common farm animals, reindeer aren’t your typical critters. Ritter said her friends thought she’d gone crazy when she started saving money to purchase the animals, and endure the extensive federal licensing process, which stretched over two years.
“People thought I was drinking or something,” she laughed.
Ritter, who works as an event planner in Independence, Missouri, thinks of the rural Lafayette County farm as Santa Claus’ flight school for reindeer readiness. The three Caribou bulls, named Aspen, Donder and Yeti, are around four months old and originate from one of seven deer species classified as reindeer.
“They’re very docile animals. They’re very sweet,” Ritter told FOX4. “They’re definitely pets. They’re like little kids.”
“Whenever I walk up to the fence, they run over. They like to tug me with their antlers. They’re like big puppy dogs.”
For now, Ritter’s farm is closed to the public, but Ritter said she plans to open it to the public in 2020. She said, until then, she’s keeping the farm’s exact location private.
The three reindeer have a shelter on the farm, but Ritter explained their fur and their anatomies are build to withstand colder weather.
As it stands, you’d need to be Santa Claus himself to get into the farm. Ritter recently allowed 17 of Santa’s helpers, a group of fully-dressed Santa Clauses representing the Heart of America Santas, to share the reindeer with their cameras.
“It’s vital that they’re ready to fly on Christmas Eve. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to deliver toys to all the good boys and girls all around the world,” one of Santa’s white-bearded helpers said.
Ritter said the reindeer don’t maintain themselves. Since August, she said she’s been on the farm twice per day caring for the three young deer. She agreed there’s no denying their magic is part of the holiday season.
“I think anytime someone sees a reindeer, they think happiness. They think of good things. Anytime kids see them, they think, ‘There`s Santa’s reindeer,'” Ritter said.
It’s also a sign that Christmas Eve, and Santa’s annual flight, can’t be far away. You can learn more about Ritter’s reindeer at this Facebook page.