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Santa's Reineer

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Eric Conrad, 2, of Decatur checks out the front end of Jingle Belle, one of Santa’s reindeer, on Saturday at the Botanical Conservatory. Santa and his reindeer are scheduled to return from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22.

Families hoof it to see Santa’s reindeer

– Jingle Belle and Candy Cane are ready for their Christmas party. On the point of each antler is a colorful ornament. Each wears a red cape that bears her name. Their hooves are even painted in red, silver or green glitter.

Jingle and Candy are North Pole reindeer (via the farm Animal-Grams in North Manchester), meeting kids and families at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory on Saturday afternoon while The Big Guy (you know the one: long white beard, fuzzy red suit, rosy cheeks) chats with kids about their Christmas wish lists.

Saturday was the first appearance for Santa and His Reindeer at the conservatory, and they will be back from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 15 and Dec. 22.

While reindeer aren’t typically a docile animal, Jingle and Candy are trained and well-behaved as little hands pat their necks and backs. They pose for photos and nibble on treats as a small crowd of families stand nearby to greet the animals.

“They absolutely love it,” handler Jurgin Cripe of Animal-Grams said of the kids.

He is holding onto Candy Cane with one hand and one of Candy Cane’s antlers in the other; reindeer usually shed their antlers in February, he said, but Candy lost hers last week. The handler with Jingle Belle joked that Candy was posing as a unicorn.

The Scott family of Fort Wayne visit the conservatory for Santa and His Reindeer every year, Jeff Scott said. The family takes its yearly Christmas card at the event and then rushes to get the cards in the mail by Monday.

As Jeff Scott chats, his wife, Jessica Scott, hands their children each a carrot to feed to Jingle Belle. They seem comfortable around the reindeer; the same isn’t necessarily true with Santa. Jaylene, who will be 3 next month, is hesitant around Santa, Jessica Scott said. Jaylene’s brother, Jaxson, who will turn 5 this month, has plans to ask for a remote control Hot Wheels car.

The Bolden family has been visiting the conservatory for Santa and His Reindeer for as long as Andrea Bolden of Fort Wayne can remember. She is at the event with her mother, son and nephew.

“It’s tradition,” she says as her mother and the boys examine a wooden sleigh pulled by two wooden reindeer, a perfect photo setup in the outside garden.

“(I like) just the creativity. They always do such a good job.”