Over the weekend, local children swarmed the Volstead House in downtown Granite Falls. They came to pet and take photos with the reindeer and tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas. The event, which was organized by the Chamber of Commerce, draws from the interesting historical connection between the Volstead family and reindeer farming.
In the early 20th century, reindeer farmer Carl Lomen (who moved from Minnesota to Alaska as a young man) observed that there existed a demand for reindeer meat back in the continental United States. Lomen established the Lomen Reindeer Company and quickly set about finding creative ways to market their reindeer meat to the public.
Unfortunately for the Lomen family, initial efforts at self-promotion proved fruitless. In 1926, Lomen partnered with Macy’s Department store to develop a Christmas parade led by Santa and his reindeer, led by Sami reindeer herders wearing their traditional garb. Lomen advertized the event to children by planting fake children’s letters in local newspapers. The letters asked Santa and his reindeer to visit their towns.
The new strategy proved wildly successful, allowing Lomen (now known by contemporaries as the ‘Reindeer King’) to grow his herd to a quarter million reindeer. The connection to Granite Falls comes through Lomen’s marriage to Laura Volstead, the only daughter of Andrew and Nellie Volstead.
The ‘return’ of the reindeer to town this past weekend therefore serves as a nice way for local residents of all ages to reconnect with the history of Granite Falls.