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Reindeer Land at Chalet Nursery

The Wilmette garden center celebrated the season with a weekend bash.

Despite the gloomy weather, parents and kids of all ages flocked to Wilmette’s Saturday and Sunday for their annual Family Holiday Celebration.

The huge space was rich with the smell of the holidays, with customers sipping free apple cider and roasting s’mores over an open fire as they took a break from browsing the huge selection of live Christmas trees, seasonal plants and decorations.

“Even though it was wet, we had a lot of people,” said Tony Fulmer, Chalet’s retail manager. “We want the holidays to be fun. It’s important to have things for families to do together.”

Earlier:

Kids and their parents crowded into an outdoor tent watching the Chicago-based entertainer Smarty Pants twist balloons into impressive creations. Kids waited patiently in line for him to make something for them. His wife, Miss Dena, was busy on the other side of the tent offering holiday-themed face painting.

Park Ridge resident Rancine Gordon took pictures of her daughters Camille and Colette while they got their faces painted with candy canes.

“We love Chalet,” she said. “The service here is great, and they have such fun parties here. It’s a great place to bring the kids and do the activities.”

The real stars of the event were a pair of female reindeer relaxing in a pen outside. Fulmer said the reindeer have been a holiday tradition for Chalet for 14 years, and they’ll be on display daily through Dec. 19. During that time the nursery invites local schools to bring kindergarten and first grade classes for a reindeer experience. Kids learn about the animals, talk with a horticulturalist about different types of Christmas trees and then sing Christmas songs in the education center.

Kim Dion of Skokie said she came out just to see the animals.

“I always wanted to see the reindeer,” she said. “It seemed like a fun event.”

Heather Stepan of Winnetka hadn’t known about the day’s activities when she went Saturday, but came back Sunday to take pictures of her 18-month-old daughter in front of the reindeer pen.

“We just bought our tree and we came back to see the reindeer,” she said. “It was a fun surprise.”

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