Crystal Collection Reindeer's travels rival Santa's yearly trek
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 01/07/2013 1:57 PM
LAKE CRYSTAL, Minn. —Only Santa's journey rivals the Christmas season schedule of Daryl and Yvonne Simon and their business partner, Bev Herda.
They have made more than 30 appearances, mostly on weekends, with reindeer calves from their Crystal Collection Reindeer herd. Each has a truck and trailer to take calves to events from the Lake Crystal farm. The reindeer make appearances throughout Minnesota, bordering states, Missouri and New York starting around Thanksgiving and ending Christmas Eve, Daryl said.
It's a busy, crazy schedule, but it is also an enjoyable 20-year-old venture.
The Simons had raised and showed Arabian horses throughout the country. Although fun, it wasn't making them money.
Daryl started looking for something else to raise when he visited an elk farm. It was the farmer's reindeer that caught his eye.
"They are little bitty things," Daryl said. "You wouldn't need a lot of land to raise them and I thought right then that they'd be great for the Christmas season. I figured that, until they outlaw Christmas, we would be able to do something with them."
Soon after they got their first reindeer, the couple dropped fliers off at stores. They had two to three jobs the first year.
After starting a web page they receive so many requests now that they have to turn some jobs down.
They have a 24-cow herd, but take calves to appearances. Calves are easier to transport, Daryl said. The young stock already have the signature horns the public expects to see.
Daryl uses the yearly shed of antlers to make knives. He carves antlers to make handles.
When they arrive at an appearance, the Simons and Herda first lay down a tarp and indoor/outdoor carpet, surrounding it with a fence. The covering protects the reindeer from any parasites or disease.
For some reason, people like to poke a reindeer's nose, Daryl said. USDA regulations call for the reindeer to be handled by the owner if the public physically touches them. It's easier, given the number of appearances and crowd size, to view the reindeer in the pen.
The restrictions are more for the animals' health than for the public, he said.
There are only about 1,000 reindeer in the lower 48 states, he said.
Daryl, Yvonne and Bev are decked out in their Christmas finest. Each wears a red and white stocking cap with reindeer logo. Daryl has a red jacket and Yvonne and Bev wear red capes. Bev and Yvonne are often called Mrs. Claus and answer a good share of Santa questions.
Youngsters receive coloring sheets with word find games and activities.
Some reindeer aficionados ask for Prancer, Dancer or Rudolph, but those reindeer are back at the North Pole.
For more information on Crystal Collection Reindeer, check out their website at livereindeer.com.