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Santa Claus may be the annual star of the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade in downtown Little Rock, but this year he's sharing the spotlight with a couple of his most important sidekicks.

For what organizers believe is the first time ever, Little Rock's Christmas celebration will include reindeer -- two of them. The furry, four-legged creatures are the grand marshals for this year's parade, 3 p.m. Saturday from Second Street and Broadway to the state Capital.

Reindeer on the River

When: Noon-5 p.m. Sunday Where: River Market Pavilions, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock

Admission: Free

Information: rivermarket.info

Then, on Sunday, they're the big stars of their own event: Reindeer on the River from noon to 5 p.m.

The idea started about 10 years ago, according to Diana Long, director of River Market operations, back when she worked for the Angela Rogers Group. She and Rogers came up with the idea of having an event with live reindeer and holiday-related activities.

"It literally took me 10 years of holding onto this little thread of this idea from way back in the day, hoping that it was somehow possible," she says.

It sounded simple but turned out to be very complicated. Finding reindeer available during the Christmas season with all the appropriate licenses, paperwork and documentation necessary was no easy task. Luckily, they found a man in Oklahoma who was able to supply the pair of reindeer.

The reindeer are females. As Long explains, males shed their antlers every winter. Females keep theirs. Which means, she points out, if those reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh have antlers, they have to be girls.

The special guests will be held in decorated enclosures in the River Market Pavilions, where visitors can line up to take photos -- but no petting.

Since this is a first for Little Rock, Long says they have no way of knowing how many people will show up. So, they're planning for the maximum number of people the pavilion can accommodate in the five-hour period and practicing ways to keep the line wait time to a minimum.

When families have taken their photos or are waiting for their turn, there will be plenty of other activities to keep them busy:

At the Letters to Santa station, children can compose their letters and drop them in a mailbox so the reindeer can take them back home with them to the North Pole.

An arts and crafts area has an ornament-making activity (one ornament per child, although there will be an assortment from which to choose) and reindeer cookie-making.

Reindeer dust is a special concoction -- edible for reindeer and other furry friends -- that children can make to take home. On Christmas Eve, they're supposed to sprinkle it in their yard to guide the reindeer to their house.

Arkansas Game and Fish will have an information station with deer facts and a life-size moose puzzle.

There will be an "elfie" station with a backdrop and funny props where children and families can cut loose and be silly.

A face painter, music and vendors selling snacks will round out what Long promises will be a "family-friendly, holiday-spirited afternoon."

Everything except the vendor snacks will be free.

The River Market isn't the only downtown location with holiday fun. The Historic Arkansas Museum and Old State House Museum will have their activity-packed holiday open houses within easy walking or trolley-riding distance.

But Long anticipates the pair of deer will be the stars for excited, Santa-happy children of all ages.

"I've turned into a child," she says. "I get so giddy that we have reindeer coming."

A pair of Santa’s reindeer are special guests for this year’s Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday parade and at their own special event, Reindeer on the River.

Weekend on 11/29/2018

Print Headline: Reindeer on the River in downtown Little Rock stars two of Santa's team

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