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story.lead_photo.caption The show barn at Heifer Ranch in Perryville was decorated last year for the ranch’s Christmas event, and the barn will be open again this year for The Holiday Hoopla, set for 5-8 p.m. Friday and 3-6 p.m. Saturday. Activities include photos with animals, international gifts for sale and a chance to win a night on the ranch.

PERRYVILLE — Lots of people get photos made with Santa this time of year, but what about a picture with a pig?

Heifer USA will present The Holiday Hoopla at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, scheduled for Saturday and Dec. 10. The weekend includes a chance for people to get their pictures made with farm animals, listen to live music, eat farm-fresh food and buy unique international gifts.

Jacob Sheatsley, hospitality and event manager for Heifer Ranch, said the event was previously called the Holiday Open House and Living Gift Market.

“We rebranded it and refocused it,” Sheatsley said. “Recently, Heifer USA has merged with Heifer Ranch as one operating team in Perryville. It’s really exciting.”

The hours are 5-8 p.m. Saturday and 3-6 p.m. Dec. 10 at the ranch, 55 Heifer Road.

The entry fee is a suggested $5 donation, which provides a chance to win a night on the ranch, a $100 value. Also during the event, a night on the ranch will be sold at a reduced rate of $75.

Although Heifer Ranch has larger lodges, the night on the ranch offers smaller cottages that hold four to six people and have kitchens.

“There are other add-ons — farm-fresh bacon and eggs in the morning,” Sheatsley said. “You can add that on, chores with the animals. … We’re testing this because we’re wanting to start to sell more things to the general public.”

The Holiday Hoopla will sell unique international fair-trade gifts from all over the world, he said, “everything from hand drums to ornaments to a very wide range of chocolate produced throughout the world, clothing, coffee, jams — just about everything you can imagine.”

Children can decorate sugar cookies, and for a suggested donation, chili with ranch-raised meat will be available, as well as cocoa and coffee.

The musicians, Nate Kennedy of Little Rock and Some Guy Named Robb of Russellville, will perform.

Robb McCormick is a singer-songwriter, “and I play indie folk rock and cover tunes — just good music,” he said.

McCormick said he was happy to oblige when Sheatsley contacted him about The Holiday Hoopla.

“I’ve visited Heifer Ranch with my kids a couple of times during school field trips, and I really enjoy what they do. Whenever he called me up, I said, ‘That’s great.’ I think it’s amazing what they do.”

“They have an international reach but are here in good old Arkansas.”

Heifer USA works with small-scale farmers to help them transform their communities, Sheatsley said.

In Arkansas, the ranch supports two cooperatives: Grassroots, which is meat, and New South, a vegetable cooperative.

“A farmer who is selling to farmers markets and niche markets can scratch by. … A farmer in a cooperative can more efficiently fill those markets,” Sheatsley said. “We’ll start training future farmer interns on the ranch in January. They’ll live on the ranch; they’ll learn everything they need.

“Throughout the world, we are creating sustainability and resilient livelihoods. Heifer [International] is still that model of giving animals and having those animals be not just a way out of hunger but a way out of poverty. Our mission is to end hunger and poverty. Our overarching goal is to help 4 million families reach living incomes by 2020.”

Sheatsley said the idea of The Holiday Hoopla is to raise awareness, as well as money, for Heifer Ranch’s programs.

“Your kids can have a good time. You can find something unique, enjoy the lights and the holiday season and not get lost in the hoopla and maybe enjoy it a little bit,” Sheatsley said.

And get a photo made with a goat, a llama, a duck or ….

For more information, call Heifer Ranch at (501) 889-5123.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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