Jenna Bedford, of Kenai Reindeer Farm, sits next to her reindeer with Juliana Bedford during the Fourth Annual Holiday Cheer Christmas Bazaar at the Old Carrs Mall in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Jenna Bedford, of Kenai Reindeer Farm, sits next to her reindeer with Juliana Bedford during the Fourth Annual Holiday Cheer Christmas Bazaar at the Old Carrs Mall in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Reindeer on the town

Antlered animals are making appearances at bazaars and holiday events

At Christmas celebrations and craft bazaars this month a series of “reindeer sightings” have afforded children and families the opportunity to take photos with Santa’s reindeer, provided by Kenai Reindeer Farm.

Hara Hansen, who could be seen wrangling reindeer this winter at events like Soldotna’s Christmas in the Park or the Fourth Annual Holly Jolly Christmas Bazaar, said Monday that it’s often the adults who are more excited to see the animals and their antlers than their children.

“For kids, everything is new. They discover new things all the time — seeing Santa’s reindeer isn’t a huge stretch,” Hansen said. “Adults … they rarely see something new like that.”

At events like the bazaar, she said she can see people come around the corner and catch a glimpse of her antlered accompaniment. Eyes widen, jaws drop.

“The reindeer help spread the magic and the joy,” Hansen said. “It’s a time when people come together and think of others … when we can share (the reindeer) with our community.”

It’s that excitement that makes each year’s appearances “worth it,” she said.

Requests start coming in as early as September for reindeer appearances, and Hansen said they take on as many as they can without overworking the reindeer.

“They, I think, really enjoy it.”

Hansen said if the deluge of excited kids was stressful to the reindeer, it would be apparent by their body language — they’d be pacing or looking to move away from the area. During an appearance on Saturday, as kids moved in and out of their space, two reindeer at the bazaar were laid down and relaxing — one may have been asleep.

As photos were taken, one reindeer lazily looked around to take stock of the situation before relaxing its chin on the back of another.

Crash, “our dear old bud,” has been making local appearances for 12 years. He’s usually paired with another less-experienced reindeer, who will follow his lead.

There are people, Hansen said, who get their photos with Crash every year, who can see themselves grow up alongside the now-aged reindeer.

The reindeer have two more appearances on the books for this Christmas season. They’ll be at Brew@602’s Polar Express Holiday Train on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15 and 16 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. They’ll also appear at Nikiski Hardware & Supply’s 2023 Christmas Extravaganza on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

After their season comes to a close, Hansen said Kenai Reindeer Farm will focus on herd health, making sure all of the reindeer are well fed, vaccinated and ready for the next winter. After winter ends, the reindeer will eat far more than in the cold months, storing nutrients for antler growth.

In April, the farm will hope for babies.

For more information about reindeer sightings and other news about the local reindeer, find “Kenai Reindeer Farm — Home of Scene of the Crash” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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