Reindeer given OK to land

Area law enforcement agencies and Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin have granted special permits for a low-flying vehicle and nine flying reindeer to visit Georgia tonight.

In an effort to make Georgia as Santa-friendly as possible, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin announced he had granted a special 24-hour permit for nine flying reindeer to visit Georgia this evening and into the early morning hours Friday.

The permit applications to waive routine licensing, identification and health requirements were filed last week by a North Pole toymaker who signed the paperwork "Kris Kringle." The reindeer named on the permit are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

"We are pleased to grant the temporary waiver to Mr. Kringle," Irvin said. "I and the employees of the Georgia Department of Agriculture wish him safe travels as he and his reindeer make deliveries to the good children of Georgia."

Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said his department will cooperate with and assist the North Pole visitors while they are here.

"As long as he stays above our streets and goes rooftop to rooftop, we won't have any problem with him," Cotton said of Kringle. "We have a pretty good description of him and his vehicle, so if we see him around people's houses, we won't get out and identify him. We pretty much know who he is."

Cotton added that his department understands Kringle is working on a tight schedule.

"If we see him late Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, we know he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and we'll let him go about his business," Cotton said. "And if we can assist him in any way, we will."

Conyers Police Chief David Cathcart said despite the fact a sleigh led by nine tiny reindeer -- including one with a red nose -- is not street legal, Conyers Police officers will be making an exception this year and allowing Santa on his way.

"Last year around this time, we got a complaint in regard to loitering and prowling," Cathcart said. "The description was of a man with a belly like a bowl full of jelly, a long white beard, red suit and hat. Of course, once we realized it was Santa, everything was fine, and we assured citizens they had nothing to dread as long as they weren't on the naughty list."

Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington said his deputies will also offer any assistance to Santa and any helpers he may bring with him on his stops here.

"We will not be detaining him and that's because I don't want anyone to stop him on his way to my house," Wigington said. "I can assure you Santa will be safe in Rockdale County. We'll even give him an escort, if he wants one."

Irvin said that he consulted with State Veterinarian Dr. Carter Black and Dr. James Sutton, assistant commissioner of agriculture, Plant Industry Division, on any dangers posed by the brief visit.

"This visit will not violate any of our biosecurity measures to keep out animal diseases," Irvin said. "As it was explained to me, these reindeer will be moving quickly, will only prance and paw on rooftops and will not intermingle with any livestock in Georgia."

"Usually, few creatures are stirring that night," Black added. "Not even a mouse."