KEYWORDS: reindeer On Blitzen! North Pole animals in the news Christmas story Santa Claus House Alaska animal
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – A reporter for the NBC television station KTUU in Anchorage, found her way into the national spotlight while taping a scene with a young reindeer named Blitzen at the Santa Claus House in North Pole.
Just as the Santa hat-clad Meghan Stapleton knelt down with the reindeer’s leash in hand, a spooked Blitzen leaped at the reporter, knocking her down in a manner one witness described as a “tackle.” Stapleton was not injured and even managed to hold on to the leash to keep Blitzen from running away, though he did drag her a couple feet.
“I thought the last thing I wanted to do was let Blitzen get away, especially two days before Christmas,” Stapleton said.
Paul Brown, the Claus House sales manager who was handling Blitzen before giving Stapleton the leash, said the reporter quickly regained her composure.
“She had a good time with it. She ended up popping right up and laughing about it,” Brown told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The holiday-theme store and attraction is about 10 miles south of Fairbanks.
Stapleton said she didn’t immediately realize that the entire incident Monday had been caught on tape, considering the crew wasn’t prepared to go live yet when she approached the reindeer.
But as soon as crew members saw the footage, they used the satellite truck on scene to send the blooper around the nation. Several NBC affiliates showed the tussle on morning news shows, including Tuesday’s edition of “The Today Show.”
Stapleton, who was part of a crew that travels to the Fairbanks and North Pole area every Christmas season to film live broadcasts around the world, said her parents in New York state learned about the incident on the news. An NBC affiliate there interviewed her parents.
“What’s surprising is you can do what you feel are impactful stories, but the biggest one is where a reindeer runs over you,” said Stapleton, who added that she’s received e-mails from friends she hasn’t heard from in years.
Brown said he thinks that Blitzen, who is 8 months old, simply got uncomfortable around so many people, especially when he was handed over to an unfamiliar person.
But Brown said Santa Claus House benefited from all the national publicity.
“That was a good thing for us,” he said. “We definitely saw a spike in our Web site traffic.”