Update : Reindeer Return to Dzen Farm for Christmas 2015 Season
Posted on December 23, 2012
Update : After a one year hiatus due to a dispute over road access with a housing developer and the town, reindeer have returned for the Christmas 2015 season to the Dzen Tree Farm in South Windsor, Connecticut. Happily prancing about on the day I stopped by, a visiting mother and baby are occuping the stalls for Misteltoe and Belle. Meanwhile, also energetic Max and Jack are part of the Dzen Family. Not to be confused with another Dzen farm across the street, the reindeer can be visited at the 125 Barber Hill Road site owned by John Dzen, Jr. The public is welcome. Go to dzentreefarm.com to learn more.
Below read original 2012 story.
Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb
“Up on the housetop, click, click, click……..”
With Christmas Eve just hours away and Santa Claus preparing for his big event, rest assured that in addition to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen and the rest of Santa’s traditional reindeer sleigh team – Mistletoe and Belle are also ready.
Mistletoe and Belle are reindeer that have been an added attraction at Dzen Christmas Tree Farm in South Windsor, Connecticut this season. Today is the last day visitors can come by to see them – for obvious reasons.
“They have to have time to get to the North Pole,” said farm owner John Dzen, Jr.
Getting them to Connecticut was not easy. Although legislation was passed in Connecticut two years ago making it possible to have reindeer in the state for one month, the cost to rent them for such a limited amount of time was high. Ten years had passed since Dzen had reindeer on his family farm, when his children were small. Deer ownership was subsequently banned in the state because of concern about disease found elsewhere, in other types of deer, in particular chronic wasting disease.
Motivated by a suggestion to buy reindeer for their family farm from his- now grown- oldest son, a vocational agriculture student at Rockville High School, and armed with research showing reindeer had not been affected by the disease in question, Dzen successfully sought assistance from state Rep. Bill Aman and state Sen. Gary LeBeau. Dzen was even called upon to testify on the matter before a legislative committee .
“My son said ‘change the law’,” John’s wife Jennifer Dzen recalled during a December 20 interview at the farm.
That was a year ago as the family sat around the table discussing the idea. Spurred on by his son’s high level of interest in raising reindeer and high level of commitment to his studies, John Dzen, Jr. decided to move forward with the suggestion. Several arduous months later, a new law took effect on November 1 of this year. So, Dzen rented Mistletoe and Belle from a herd in New York with an agreement to trade them for ownership of baby reindeer this coming spring. Two baby reindeer are expected to arrive at the Dzen Christmas Tree Farm in March.
“Yes, we’re going to become reindeer farmers,” said Jennifer Dzen.
The challenge of getting the law changed has been quite a journey for John Dzen. Jr.
“It’s been overwhelming, frustrating,” he said, “But it has been rewarding when you see kids nose to nose with the reindeer and their eyes light up.”
Despite the expense and tremendous amount of work involved and special licensing requirement, having Mistletoe and Belle has also been a wonderful learning experience said Jennifer Dzen.
“You know the song about, ‘click, click click.’ Reindeer hoofs actually do make a clicking sound due to a ligament in their hoofs,” she explained.
The clicking, she said, enables the reindeer to keep track of each other and stay together in white out conditions common in habitats such as the tundra.
Not just youngsters, but all age groups have been fascinated with the reindeer.
“A senior (citizen) bus stopped by. And some grandparents, who came to pick out a tree, came back to the farm with their grandchildren to see the reindeer,” noted Jennifer Dzen.
Of course the question on the minds of the children who come to visit has been, “What are Santa’s reindeer doing in Connecticut?” Not to worry, Jennifer Dzen said the children are told that the farm was chosen as a Santa’s helper site; and that Mistletoe and Belle will be ready to head to the North Pole for the most magical night of the year!