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Sleigh ride business is booming this time of year PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 17:12

Insurance agent turns his rural Cedarburg ranch into a winter wonderland for customers who want to celebrate the season 

    The holiday spirit is working its magic at Paradise Ranch in the Town of Cedarburg as sleigh rides with ordinary strangers turn into lasting memories and even friendships.
    “Strangers will be on the same carriage with other strangers. It’s a little awkward and quiet at first when the ride starts, but by the end of it they’re all laughing and talking,” said sleigh driver Ryan Prom, whose parents own the ranch. “Once, we had a group that exchanged phone numbers after the ride, and the next year they all came back together. So I guess strangers become friends through the rides.”
    For the past six years, Village of Belgium native Sid Prom has opened approximately 30 of his 40 acres at 2408 Spring Hill Dr. in the Town Cedarburg to offer rides to the public at night. Prom previously provided carriage rides outside of the ranch for various events, like weddings, funerals and parades.
    “Several years ago, we were like, ‘This is crazy being out on the streets,’ with people not paying attention to traffic or being at a parade with drums, guns and motorcycles. It was kind of a dangerous scenario,” said Prom, a Cedarburg insurance agent. “I thought, ‘Let’s do sleigh rides, but what can we do that’s different from everybody else?’ So we decided to do them at nighttime and decorate the woods with lights and let the horses see their path via Christmas lights.”
    The sleigh ride season begins the weekend after Thanksgiving and runs through the last weekend of January with more than 2,000 people partaking in horse-drawn rides. Before the season begins, the Proms usually begin decorating several themed sections of their trees with lights.
    “We start hanging Christmas lights in October. It takes us roughly two months to get all the lights up, and we take them down every year,” Prom said. “The first year, we kept them up, but when we plugged them back in for the next year none of them turned on because the squirrels chewed through all of the wiring. In a matter of three weeks, we had to take everything down and re-hang the lights for our second year.”
    Luckily for Prom and his wife Katie, their eldest son Nathan and his Cedarburg High School football teammates helped the family restring their lights in time for the opening of the second season.
    According to Prom, operating a family-run business impresses the customers and teaches his five young-adult children the importance of labor and diligence.
    “Our kids learn that every detail matters and it adds up to being amazing. Now my sons and daughters tell me what needs to get done,” he said. “It’s an excellent way for them to work in the family business to make money for college and for us to stay together.”
    Another attraction the ranch offers its customers is a sense of nostalgia, which Prom said brings his guests back to the 1800s with its quaint, rural setting complete with a stone barn and log cabin.
    Prom also has a no electronics policy during the sleigh rides to help bring the customers back to simpler times.
    “I tell the people the horse has no engine on it and there’s no battery operated remote control either. We’re going back to the 1800s while you’re here,” he said.
    Paradise Ranch draws customers from throughout Ozaukee County and far beyond. They have included well-known Hollywood celebrities, as well as star athletes and musicians, Prom said.
    “We have a lady who lives in Hollywood who comes year after year. One time, we had a lady drive up from New Orleans to take a sleigh ride and she drove home after the ride was over,” he said. “We also just got an email from someone in Kentucky who wants to go on a sleigh ride.”
    Prom said he doesn’t pay much attention to the high-profile customers who come to his ranch, but he does take note when something special happens to one of the riders.
    Each season, the ranch is rented out for a night to a charitable organization, which in the past have included a homeless shelter in Milwaukee and the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin.
    “One time, we had some children who never spoke before and their parents were in tears because of the experience of the sleigh ride with the horses, seeing Santa Claus, the bonfire, and going back to the 1800s. One of the kids was 14 years old and the first word he said was ‘Beautiful,’” Prom said. “We’ve had celebrities, pro athletes, actors, musicians, and that’s all kind of cool, but nothing as cool as that night.”
    “There’s something to say about seeing a horse and riding that can be very freeing for some kids,” added Mrs. Prom, who said she became an avid horse lover in her youth when she was in the Horseless Horse project through 4-H in Sheboygan County.
    Paradise Ranch has also been the location for several commercials for companies like Harley-Davidson, Snap-on, and Proctor & Gamble. Mrs. Prom and one their horses were also in the 2012 film “No God, No Master,” which was filmed in Milwaukee.
    “We’re just a small family doing our thing, and then we’ll get a call from Hollywood,” Prom said. “We must have gotten on their short list somehow.”

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