Those who stopped by Gilman Village this weekend were greeted with a surprise Saturday afternoon – in the form of a special visit from one of Santa’s Actual reindeer.
But what was Santa’s leading lady (second to Mrs. Claus, of course) doing in Issaquah? Dancer, a 10-year old reindeer, and her elf friend, Sasha Puskar, made the stop at the popular holiday shopping spot to say hello to Santa and spread the word about the annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival, currently taking place at Cougar Mountain Zoo.
Puskar who has been working at the zoo for seven and a half years, says she’s been interested in working with animals since before she could walk. A resident of Issaquah since 1987, Puskar said it’s great to be able to do these types of events within the community, and share the same type of holiday experiences she had as a child growing up on the Eastside.
During their visit, Dancer took pictures with passing shoppers while Puskar shared facts about Dancer and the other Siberian reindeer that make up Santa’s team – all of whom spend their off-time at the zoo in Issaquah.
“In reindeer years, Dancer is about 2,000 years old,” Puskar said. “Because, you know, Santa’s been around for a long time.”
Puskar also said Dancer’s winter coat consists of 10,000 hairs per every square inch – and that her furry nose helps her keep warm in the North Pole.
While passers-by at Gilman Village this weekend were asked to keep their distance from Dancer (she might get spooked and try to fly away), those interested in getting a closer view – and the chance to feed Dancer and her friends – are invited to stop by the festival.
In it’s 24th year, the Issaquah Reindeer Festival gives attendees the opportunity to take a picture with Santa, visit his house and post office, and meet a number of other animal friends.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, through December 23, at the Cougar Mountain Zoo. The festival will also run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Dec. 26-30.