Join in all the reindeer games

100-acre Applewood Farm offers visitors a chance to pet animals - in Pennsylvania

December 30, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

It's an after-Christmas tradition for the Adelhardt family, who open their 100-acre Whiteford farm to the public to view the livestock that is forbidden in Maryland: the reindeer.

Since Maryland law bans deer of any kind kept captive, Brian Adelhardt keeps his three reindeer north of the Mason-Dixon Line - seven acres of his farm are in Pennsylvania.

"Reindeer is the biggest attraction here at Christmas time," he said. "On a normal weekend, when we walk along the parking lot, we get a lot of cars from Virginia. We get cars from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania."

Children ogle Santa's furry helpers, and families often take photographs with the creatures.

The Adelhardts charge $3 admission for people to take a tour of their winter wonderland, which has train and pony rides, horse-drawn carriages, and a stock of fresh Fraser Fir trees.

During the pre-Christmas buzz, Adelhardt is often too busy with tree sales to showcase his reindeer. So after the presents have been opened and the frenzy of Christmas shopping has ended, the Adelhardts hold a Reindeer Day, devoted to showcasing their raisin-munching ruminants. Held on Thursday, this year's event drew about 300 people.

"The tune is different, because we can concentrate on entertaining customers and giving more information on reindeers," Adelhardt said. "It is primarily for folks who haven't seen the reindeer before Christmas. The day after Christmas, the hustle and bustle is over and people are looking to relax and play a little bit."

Visitors line up along the corral fence and Adelhardt delivers a short address about reindeer. Then he brings out one of the animals to allow visitors to touch and take photos with Spruce, Minnie or Millie.

Spruce, an 8-year-old male, is very docile - except during breeding season - and likes to munch on raisins and honeysuckle. Minnie is Spruce's daughter and is 5. She tends to be friendly when visitors have raisins.

"She likes the attention," Adelhardt said. "She'll be crestfallen after the holidays, because they get used to that attention."

Millie, who was born in May, is the youngest and friendliest.

"She was loud today and talking to everybody," Adelhardt said.

Ten years ago, the Adelhardts brought live reindeer from Alaska after reading about the animals in a Christmas tree journal.

"We had a small petting zoo for families who came to get Christmas trees," he said. "We thought it would be a good fit."

Tree farms commonly bring in reindeer as an attraction, says Kyle Wilson, president of the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association.

"Most people I know have them for the Christmas season," Wilson said. "There are few people who have them just to have them. Then several have them on Christmas tree farms."

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