Santa’s reindeer stop at Kremmling tree lighting

Reindeer Oogie Boogie, Zero and Bumble from the Colorado Reindeer Ranch delight families during Kremmling's Tree Lighting on Dec. 3, 2022.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

It was snowing lightly on Dec. 3, the night of Kremmling’s tree lighting, adding even more festivity to the celebration. Families gathered around fire pits roasting s’mores, or headed inside the Kremmling chamber to warm up with homemade apple cider, hot cocoa and plenty of deserts.

After filling their bellies with cookies, kids could grab a Christmas book, head to the crafting table to create letters to Santa or even sit on Santa’s lap to tell him what they wanted that year.

Families hopped on hay bales to enjoy a ride pulled by a tractor. Dave and Karen Hammer, owners of the Kremmling Mercantile and Moose Cafe, offered the wagon ride. Nestled in the hay bales, riders waved to passersby as they traveled around town square. Karen Hammer, dressed as a snowman, also took photos with the kids.

“We really appreciate all the support and this was the biggest turnout for our tree lighting we’ve ever had,” said Brittany VanderLinden, executive director of the Kremmling Chamber of Commerce.

She added that new additions this year, including a performance by children in the Dance Collective and a visit from Santa’s reindeer, added a “Christmas storybook feel” to the celebration.

Colorado Reindeer Ranch, which is located at Buffalo Pass near Walden, brought three reindeer to the party. The reindeer were a hit. Crowds gathered around their pen as Oogie Boogie, Zero and Bumble munched on grass they found under patches of snow.

Bumble is 7 years old, while Zero and Oogie Boogie are 7 months old. The three are all females.

“We leave the boys at home,” said April Cochrane, who runs Colorado Reindeer Ranch with her husband, Dustin Cochrane. “We cut their horns off during rut for safety, so we don’t use them for show.”

She explained that their reindeer are raised for shows and events, not meat production.

The Cochranes own a 5,000-acre cattle ranch with an Airbnb on their property. In 2021, they introduced one reindeer to the mix and they now have 11.

She explained that reindeer are docile and easy to train, just like horses and cattle. Currently, the Cochranes own a breeding pair and the rest are calves. Cochrane especially likes walking the young reindeer.

The Cochranes are in the process of training their reindeer to pull sleds, once they reach the proper weight when they are around 3 years old.

“You’ve just got to spend some time with them, and they’ll calm down pretty quick,” Cochrane said of the training process. “They’ll do just about anything for some food!”

The reindeer get to travel all over Colorado, but have just recently made their first foray into Grand County.

 “We were in Grand Lake last weekend, we’ll be in Walden next weekend, and going to Steamboat the weekend after,” she said. “We have some schools from Wyoming coming out to the ranch to see them. Reindeer aren’t allowed in Wyoming, so they have to come to us!”

Eventually folks gave the reindeer a goodbye pat, grabbed one last cookie and headed for the finale — the lighting of what town officials bill as the largest living (uncut) Christmas tree in Colorado.

Brandon Grinde climbed up the tree’s ladder and led the crowd in a countdown to the lighting. Standing at 65 feet, the tree can be seen in many places around town after it’s lit.

Standing at 65 feet in town square, Kremmling’s tree is known as “the biggest living Christmas tree this side of the Mississippi” by locals.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

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