RANTOUL, Ill., (WCIA) — You know Dasher and Dancer, and Comet and Blitzen. But did you know you can meet some of Santa’s reindeer right here in Central Illinois?
If you drive about 25 minutes north of Champaign you’ll find Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul.
That’s where 22 reindeer now call home, with the newest addition being born last week. Star is now a mom to baby Aurora.
The owners started the family of animals after bringing them to the area from Alaska 28 years ago.
“Oh, Blitzen you are the biggest goofball of all. He has got a personality that just will not quit,” Julie Hardy, one of the reindeer, described while feeding the reindeer.
Blitzen isn’t the only reindeer getting the love. Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch is expanding its herd, but why in Our Town Rantoul?
“I met this handsome young man who owned a Christmas tree farm in Rantoul,” Hardy said. “I’ve got a city marketing background and I’m thinking…marketing? Christmas trees? How am I gonna do that?”
The answer? Reindeer.
With them, Hardy and her husband said they bring in about 60,000 visitors a year.
“They are such a social animal. You can tell they respond to the attention that they get,” she explained. “People are so surprised how sweet they are, how friendly. The first time you look into their eyes, you fall in love with them.”
But, the owners are also surprised with how the success has taken flight.
“When we brought reindeer here it was supposed to be a little attraction for Rantoul or maybe the Champaign area,” Hardy said.
But now, people are flooding in from different states. Hardy said people have flown in from Washington D.C.
They come to simply meet the animals and for the up close and personal experience altogether.
If you want to meet the baby reindeer, you can this Memorial Day weekend. The owners said it’s pretty rare that they open in the spring, but they are ready to introduce you to the newest members of the family.
Tickets are $8 per person and are available in person.