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Free fun: Reindeer, Santa & snow play
Susan Dell’Osso with the reindeer that are part of the free attractions when Holidays on the Farms opens Friday at 10 a.m. off Interstate 5 at Manthey Road in Lathrop just south of the San Joaquin River crossing. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
LATHROP –  You won’t find Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen or Rudolf hanging around Santa if you venture out to Dell’Osso Farms.

Instead you’ll run into Holly, Snowflake, Pumpkin, and Rudolpho. And, no, Ruldopho doesn’t have a red nose but he does have a broken antler.

The four reindeer are a rare treat in California. Seeing them is free and part of the Holidays on the Farms that gets underway in earnest on Friday at 10 a.m.

Call it White Friday – the Dell’Osso Family’s answer to Black Friday. Instead of frantically driving around searching for bargains and fighting the traffic to hit the ski slopes, Holidays on the Farms offers tubing on manmade snow daily through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and then reverts to shorter weekday hours when school resumes on Monday.

The tubing is $15 for a 90-minute session that starts every two hours. And, yes, it’s just like the early part of October with the Pumpkin Maze as the crowds are smaller which means instead of getting in 10 or so runs you could easily get in up to 20 in the allotted time. An on-line reservation ( )  advised as there are limited slots available for drop-in tubers but given it is the start of the season you can probably drop by anytime through Sunday and not have to wait.

However, you can enjoy snow at Holiday on the Farms without spending a dime at least through Sunday. That’s because the 5,000-square-foot snow play area isn’t complete. The support beams for the roof are up but there’s no roof. That will go up starting Monday. Until then, it’s free for anyone who wants to play in the snow. It isn’t 100 percent covered with snow yet. That will happen after the roof is on and then it’s a $5 charge for all day access. But even so, the smiles of the kids tell you there is more than enough of the white stuff on the ground to have a blast.

“The looks on the kids’ faces are priceless,” Susan Dell’Osso said. “Some of them have never even seen snow before.”

There’s a bunch of other free things to do whether it is browsing the general store where kids can tell Santa their Christmas wishes while sitting with him in an old-fashioned sleigh or taking photos of kids sticking their heads through Christmas artwork with the faces cut out.

Zip lines are open ($6 a ride or two for $10) while Friday evening starts the Lights on the Farm with its 500 unique displays that include such touches as various farm animals and a Dell’Osso pumpkin blaster shooting off mini pumpkins that looks animated.

The 500 scenes can be accessed starting Friday  by a hay ride that includes blankets at $5 per person, driving through it in a car on weekdays for $10 or weekends for $12 or via the Dell’Osso Express for $3 per person.

They are also selling Christmas trees at what Dell’Osso described as “Home Depot pricing.”

Reindeer facts & other fun stuff
When it comes to unique things that are free, though, it is hard to top the free snow play area through Monday or the ability to see real reindeer.

“You won’t find that many real ones in California,” Dell’Osso noted of the reindeer.

The reason is climate and their susceptibility to disease. That is why there are two fences around their pens and why you can’t pet them. There are misters in case the temperatures get above the mid-60s.

Dell’Osso can rattle off a bunch of interesting reindeer facts that will be part of story boards around the enclosure. Reindeer are the only antlers where both the male and female grow antlers. You can hear a clacking sound when they walk that is produced by a tendon in the hooves which helps them travel in deep snow.

They have 23,000 hairs per square inch with the hollow hair under layer helping keep them warm while the upper layer wards off the cold. As for their noses, they feature nasal turbinate bones that increase the area inside the nostrils significantly. That way the reindeer’s body heat warms cold air before it heads to the lungs.

As for how Pumpkin got her name, that’s pretty obvious given it’s going to be living at the site of the Dell’Osso Farms Pumpkin Maze through the first week of January. As for Rudolphpo he’s not named after Rudolf but after Rudy Dell’Osso, the father of Susan’s husband Ron.

Ron Dell’Osso is a farmer by trade but his biggest crop might just end up being putting the smiles on the faces of kids of all ages.