Emmett Roughgarden, 6, of Issaquah tells Santa that he’d like walkie-talkies and stuffed animal cats for Christmas. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Emmett Roughgarden, 6, of Issaquah tells Santa that he’d like walkie-talkies and stuffed animal cats for Christmas. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

30th annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival back at Cougar Mountain Zoo | Photos

Festival features Santa and his team of reindeer

It’s a holiday tradition that has been an Issaquah staple for three decades.

Back for the 30th year in a row, the Issaquah Reindeer Festival brings Santa Claus to town and delights all ages with festive activities and a collection of animals from around the world.

Kids can meet Santa in his house, write him a letter at the zoo’s post office and even feed his reindeer. Hear a holiday story read by an elf at the Story Time Theatre and see what it’s like to be Old St. Nick himself as you take a seat in his sleigh for photos.

Learn about how each animal at the zoo has a special role in helping Santa deliver his gifts on Christmas Eve. For example, the tigers are Santa’s candy cane makers on account of the stripes in their fur, and the emus, Santa’s Australian landing team, help the sleigh to land safely.

The Reindeer Festival runs from 10:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 30. It will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For information on admissions and discounts, visit http://cougarmountainzoo.org/Visitor%20Info/admissions.aspx.

Santa gives Rudolph his lunch. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Santa gives Rudolph his lunch. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The jolly old elf and his reindeer squad are staying at the zoo until the big night on Christmas Eve. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The jolly old elf and his reindeer squad are staying at the zoo until the big night on Christmas Eve. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Santa receives a hug from Reid Felczak, 4. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Santa receives a hug from Reid Felczak, 4. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Zoo visitors hear a story read by one of Santa’s elves. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Zoo visitors hear a story read by one of Santa’s elves. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The majestic Bengal tigers. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The majestic Bengal tigers. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

It’s Zoboomafoo’s cousin; the lemurs are known as Santa’s sentinels. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

It’s Zoboomafoo’s cousin; the lemurs are known as Santa’s sentinels. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Cari McKinstry, education manager at the zoo, shows her enthusiasm for the Reindeer Festival. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Cari McKinstry, education manager at the zoo, shows her enthusiasm for the Reindeer Festival. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The Smith family came all the way from the other Washington, Washington, D.C. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The Smith family came all the way from the other Washington, Washington, D.C. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The golden Bengal tigers, a rare breed of tiger with cinnamon-colored stripes instead of black, create the red stripes on candy canes for Santa.

The golden Bengal tigers, a rare breed of tiger with cinnamon-colored stripes instead of black, create the red stripes on candy canes for Santa.

This emu, part of Santa’s Australian landing team, helps Santa’s sleigh to land safely. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

This emu, part of Santa’s Australian landing team, helps Santa’s sleigh to land safely. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The namesake of the mountain they live on, the cougars serve as Santa’s watchful kittens. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The namesake of the mountain they live on, the cougars serve as Santa’s watchful kittens. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The wolves serve as Santa’s playful pups. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The wolves serve as Santa’s playful pups. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The art gallery features paintings and sculptures of animals by local artists. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The art gallery features paintings and sculptures of animals by local artists. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

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