Anyone who says that elves only work at the North Pole hasn't been to Sue and Allen Schmidt's Love Lake Christmas Trees in Brainerd, where young helpers - "elves" - assist customers.
The tradition of hiring youngsters as elves started in 1996 with several of the neighborhood kids and has since expanded to 21 elves that work at the farm on the weekends before Christmas.
There are four levels of elves: Intern, Apprentice, Junior and Senior Elf.
Mackenzie Renford, 11 (left), and Brayden Campbell, 14, cut down a Christmas tree for a customer Saturday at Love Lake Christmas Trees in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Rule one for being an elf is to be safe, and that means coming prepared for the weather. They are asked to bring warm clothes and boots. Of course, special hats and plaid or red jackets are provided.
Most elves live a short distance from the farm but others come from towns further away.
"Customers come here for two reasons: They love the trees and they love the elves," Sue Schmidt said.
The elves, usually in teams of two, go out with families and help them pick out a tree, offering advice and measuring up prospects.
Andrea Vogt (left) and Katie Fleischhacker, both 14, carry a tree to the parking lot Saturday at Love Lake Christmas Trees in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Anything can happen. Some people come in for a 6-foot tree and end up with a 12-foot one," elf Brandon Hedlund said.
Once a tree is selected, the elves cut it down and bring it to the parking lot, where loose needles are shaken off. The tree gets baled if necessary and loaded onto the vehicle.
Drew Miltimore, 15, and Brandon Hedlund, 14, assisted Harold and Bonnie Davidson, picking out, measuring and cutting down a tree Saturday at Love Lake Christmas Trees in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Though it is hard work, elves return year after year because, while rule No. 1 is for elves to be safe, rule No. 2 is to have fun.
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