RANTOUL — Illinois Lottery officials will use a tourist site that draws visitors to the Rantoul area to draw interest to the lottery.
A camera crew of about 30 people was on hand almost all day recently to shoot part of a lottery commercial at Hardy's Reindeer Ranch. The Hardy's portion will take up about 10 seconds of the 30-second commercial and was released the week after Thanksgiving.
The community of Red Bud, located south of Belleville, and a 5K Santa Hustle race in Chicago for which people dress up as Santa will also be featured.
Incidentally, a Red Bud store sold one of three Mega Millions jackpot-winning tickets earlier this year, making two local residents among the three winners in a jackpot of $656 million.
All three sites used in the commercial were selected for their aesthetics, charm and holiday appeal, according to Carol King, a producer at the agency Downtown Partners, which contracted with the film company 59 Productions of Chicago to make the shoot.
Red Bud was selected because "it's a really charming little town, and we shot their Christmas decorations. The town decorated for us. They agreed to put up their decorations early."
That shoot involved the crew getting there at 2 a.m. because they wanted to shoot in the dark.
The crew arrived at Hardy's Reindeer Ranch at 8 a.m. the next day after staying the night in Rantoul.
Mark Hardy, who with wife Julie runs the reindeer ranch, was surprised at the attention to detail and time it took to film a 10-second portion of the commercial.
"They covered the reindeer," Hardy said. "They actually brought in an old (Ford) Bronco and used it. They hired actors and actresses, like they were loading the tree on their vehicle."
Hardy drove an old green truck that he uses at the ranch. The crew placed antlers and a lighted wreath on the truck and put a generator in the back to illuminate the lights.
The windows at the ranch were frosted.
The ranch also grows Christmas trees, and several trees were cut down for the commercial.
"They hired me as a union actor that day," Hardy said.
"They would shoot the same thing over and over again. It took all day."
The crew took over the hall at the reindeer ranch for wardrobe and logistics.
"It's serious," Hardy said. "They had snow machines. They just re-created (winter scenes). They took over the place."
King said the agency picked Hardy's because "we wanted to create a spot that was kind of a Christmas card to Illinois and of Illinois. We were looking for interesting and unique ways to celebrate the holiday season."
King said an Illinois Lottery official knew about Hardy's and suggested the ranch.
"We wanted to shoot closeups and wide shots of the reindeer in their environment," the producer said. "We also shot their Christmas tree farm. We shot a couple buying a Christmas tree."