Excelsior Couple Shares Joy of Reindeer During Holidays

The owners of Kendallville Farm—and their beloved reindeer herd—spend the holidays spreading cheer.
Sandy and Bob Kendall bring reindeer Yukon, left, and Bernard, right, to lake communities each holiday season.

In the middle of a long Minnesota winter, while most of us are pulling on our parkas and grumbling about the latest snowfall, a few lake-area residents are in their element. Can you guess who? With wet noses, shaggy coats and an Arctic appetite, we’re talking about reindeer, of course!

Meet the Kendallville Farm reindeer herd: Bernard, Chestnut, Christmas Eve, JJ, Mira, Nicholas, Noah, Rosette, Silver Belle, Sophie, Sparky, Tinsel, Vicky and Yukon. (Got that?)

Owners Bob and Sandy Kendall spend all year at Kendallville Farm in Glencoe, just outside Excelsior, getting ready for the Christmas season. The Kendalls are the proud “parents” of 14 reindeer, and they travel all over the lake area and beyond during the holidays, sharing their friendly animals at parties, community festivals and visits to nursing homes, neighborhoods, businesses, corporate and city events. “The reindeer bring so much happiness,” says Sandy Kendall. “It’s just unreal.”

After many years of hosting a huge Christmas light display in Chanhassen that was, at one time, one of the third largest displays in the country, it seemed natural for the Kendalls—both Christmas-spirit junkies—to try their hand at raising and breeding reindeer. They first fell in love with the creatures about 13 years ago. “[Another breeder] had some reindeer down at Market Square [in Chanhassen],” Bob remembers. “I was gazing at them, and they were gazing at me. It was snowing lightly,” he chuckles. “I was hypnotized by them!”

The Kendalls adopted their first pair of reindeer, Jingles and Bow, in 2001 and the rest is history. As the farm’s resident expert, Bob designed a special feed for his herd and even travels annually to a large reindeer research station at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Nome, Alaska.

Each Christmas season, despite their busy schedules, they have also made time for one of their favorite excursions which is a little quieter—and a little more magical. In the past, Bob has chosen a local neighborhood and led his team of reindeer on a Christmas Eve walk through the snowy streets. He smiles, thinking about all the times he’s noticed small faces peeking out of living room windows and little voices shouting, “Mom, there’s a reindeer out in the street!”

“Christmas is a time of giving and celebration,” Bob says simply. “We go out and show the animals and enjoy them with the public.”

If you have a chance to visit with the Kendalls’ reindeer, make sure to bring a camera, says Sandy. “We have four sleighs, and people can sit in the sleighs and have their picture taken with the reindeer.” But it’s not just a photo op, she adds. “We walk [the reindeer] around, and people can pet them.”

And we’ve got to ask the most important question: Can reindeer really fly? “Of course,” says Sandy. “But only on Christmas Eve.”
Reindeer facts
•    In cold months, a reindeer’s body temperature lowers to 37 degrees to help conserve energy.
•    Wild reindeer eat lichen, a kind of moss that grows under the hard layer of ice and snow on the Arctic tundra. Furry noses are essential for digging into the snow for food.
•    Reindeer have webbed feet! They’re great swimmers, which helps them cross big rivers in the wild.
•    Both male and female reindeer have antlers.
•    Reindeer are native to the Arctic Circle, an area around the North Pole that includes land in Alaska, Canada, Russia and Sweden.

Visit rentreindeer.com to learn more about the Kendallville Farm herd.