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Sherri Richards, Published December 28 2008

Horse-drawn carriage rides available at Hjemkomst Center today through Tuesday

Temperatures above zero and relatively calm breezes made lovely weather for a sleigh ride Saturday afternoon in Moorhead. Bells jingled from the Percheron horses as they glided around Viking Ship Park. Red Santa hats and silver studs adorned their dark, shiny coats.

From First Avenue North, the park looked like a Christmas card depicting a 19th-century scene.

And a rider could easily slide into the past during the 10-minute ride, taking in snow-flocked pine trees, the icicle-covered Stave church and frozen Red River, until Fargo’s Radisson tower comes into view.

The sleigh rides are offered in the park through Tuesday. The annual event is a fund-raiser for local youth groups.

Alpine Carriages, based in Kindred, N.D., provides the rides. Two teams of horses – Alex and Amos and Hank and Homer – pull the wooden sleds.

“A lot of people think it’s pretty cool that you’re on a sleigh, like in the old days,” said owner Mike Schmidt.

About 25 people waited in-side the Hjemkomst Center for the rides to start at 2 p.m. About half climbed on for the first trip.

“I smell poop,” a little boy observed.

“That’s atmosphere,” Schmidt replied.

Schmidt has been with the business since 2000. He says snowy weather brings out families, especially those with out-of-town visitors.

One of those was Jeff Gall, a Texas native living in Wash-ington, D.C., here to spend Christmas with his girlfriend, Suzette Qualey.

Gall was apprehensive about coming to Fargo, but the weather hasn’t been too harsh. So Qualey’s family suggested a sleigh ride.

Gall enjoyed the ride, but was glad to get back inside the Hjemkomst.

“It was surprisingly colder than I was expecting. We weren’t moving that fast, but the wind kind of gets you,” Gall said. “It’s definitely a story I will tell my folks and people back South.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 235-7311