For the second year in a row we were able to bring my mom up for a visit during her fall break (she’s a teacher) and this year we were able to bring my dad up, too! This was mom’s third visit to Alaska but Dad’s first AND their first time visiting our new home out here in the MatSu Valley. Now that we’ve lived here for a few months, we actually know our way around a little bit and have loved showing them around our stomping grounds and introducing them to all the new traditions that we’ve created.
One of our favorite fall time traditions is visiting the Reindeer Farm for their annual fall festival. Held every Saturday during October, it has tractor rides, a horse-drawn carriage, a “kid-friendly” haunted house, petting zoo, horseback rides, reindeer tour, potato launcher, and the crown jewel: a crazy-complicated hay maze! It’s one of our favorite memory-making experiences and we were so glad to be able to share this with Grandmom and Granddad.
It was a rainy, dreary day when we got up and I almost thought we wouldn’t be able to go, but half way there the sun broke through the clouds and it ended up being a perfect day! Bonus- the threat of rain scared off the initial crowds!
The first stop at the fall festival was the reindeer tour where you even get to feed the reindeer! We’ve only gotten to do this one other time but this was my parents’ first time and ended up crossing an item off of mom’s bucket list! Their noses were so soft and tickled your hand when they ate the feed pellets. It was a lot like feeding a horse, but more “exotic” somehow.
The horseback riding was a great success! Last year, Caleb barely even sat on the horse and was *this close* to having a complete meltdown, then deciding he loved horses as soon as we left the corral. This time, mom helped Sam and dad stayed with Caleb, and the kids caught the wonder and excitement of riding horses. Having grown up in rural Georgia, my best friend’s family owned a cattle farm and had five horses, and many a weekend was spent on the back of a horse. In fact, I was once dragged by a horse after my foot got caught in the stirrup when the saddle twisted… but that’s a story for another time.
The haze maze was so much fun! It takes a good hour to go through and it just confusing enough to be enjoyable without being frustrating. They added a new aspect this year that had us going to four different sections and getting our paper stamped and then we turned in the completed paper for a treat. The added challenges in addition to the maze itself was the perfect touch!
The Reindeer Farm is located in a place called the Butte. Although it officially has a Palmer address, Butte is a community unto itself and takes its independence quite seriously. There are farms that go right up to the base of the mountains and it makes your jaw drop each and every time. My dad was absolutely amazed by the sheer awe-ness of it all and kept taking picture-after-picture.
Oh, and the petting zoo! Sam was getting a little sleepy and was content to play in the corn-box (think sandbox, but with corn kernels). Meanwhile, Caleb fell in love with an especially fluffy bunny and kept commenting on how soft she was.
And then there’s the pumpkin patch. Unfortunately, the Reindeer Farm doesn’t grow their own pumpkins (and by October all the local pumpkins have been picked since the danger of frost is so prominent) but they bring in pumpkins to fill their “patch” and give as close to an authentic experience as possible. Samantha loved rolling the pumpkins around and thought that they were the perfect seat for her little two-year-old tush. Caleb, on the other hand, got a bit inventive and decided to build a pumpkin snowman with help from Grandmom and Granddad. Talk about some great memories!
I’m so glad this has become a family tradition and even more glad that we were able to share it with my parents. With them living so far away, our time together, outside of family reunions or holidays, is so few and far between. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to be a part of traditions or day-to-day life and I’m thankful that each time we go back to this place, we can remember “that time Grandmom fed the reindeer” or when “Granddad and Caleb raced through the maze.” What’s more, I’m thankful to have these pictures to help keep the memories alive for my littles.
If given the chance, would you feed a reindeer?