TWINSBURG: They came in twos, carbon-copy sets of fairies, knights, princesses, gnomes and even just average folks in matching clothes.
They were the twins who overran this community in northeastern Summit County on Saturday in an annual bid to help the city live up to its name.
Hundreds of twins and other multiples descended on Glenn Chamberlin Park and its environs for the Twins Days Festival, a two-day sibling Saturnalia that continues from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. This year’s event has the theme “Twice Upon a Time,” prompting twins to show up Saturday in all manner of matching garb inspired by fables and fairy tales.
There were dual Robin Hoods, dual Red Riding Hoods, dual Glindas from The Wizard of Oz. There was a double set of Prince Charmings bearing matching glass slippers on matching pillows, accompanied by an exact-replica pair of Cinderellas.
“Our husbands call them our boyfriends,” one of the Cinderellas, Susy Todd Eft, said of twin princes Steve and Jeff Nagel. Eft and twin Sandy Todd Rollo, both of Steubenville, met the Nagels from Dayton at Twins Days 26 years ago and have been close friends since.
That’s how it is at Twins Days. Twins meet other twins, friendships form over shared experiences and the pairs keep reuniting year after year.
That’s why Brian Casey of Concord, N.H., was roaming the grounds alone, clad in a black T-shirt that declared him “Father of Twins” on the front and “Twice the Man” on the back. “Do you think 16-year-olds are gonna hang around with their dad?” he said of daughters Cailin and Colleen, who had disappeared to hang out with their twin friends.
Identical twins Jason and Scott Malafarina of Solon dressed as the Brothers Grimm in elaborate costumes that represented, in Jason’s words, “a lot of glue and sweat.” It was the ninth straight Twins Days appearance and 14th total for the 29-year-old twins, who reign as this year’s festival kings.
The two insisted they aren’t exactly alike. They went to different colleges, after all. And Scott is dating a twin, while Jason is not.
Other than that?
Well, there isn’t much that sets them apart. And that’s part of the joy of being a twin, Jason Malafarina said.
Sherri Gilbert-Ward and Terri Gilbert-Smith enjoy their close bond, although they said they were appreciating the rare opportunity to blend in with a crowd.
“Yeah, we’re not the freak show,” Gilbert-Ward said, “although we do point at the quads.”
Being stared at isn’t the only down side of sharing a set of genes, the 56-year-olds from Harvard County, Md., said.
Their teachers always confused them, and even now people still mix them up sometimes. As children, they both got spankings on occasion because one wouldn’t rat on the other. And then there was the time their father was giving them home permanents and applied perm solution to one twin’s hair twice because he lost track, Gilbert-Smith said.
But there are benefits, too, they said. What’s the best? “Spare parts,” Gilbert-Ward joked.
While most of the festival-goers were celebrating their sameness, Cassie Sironen of Kingsville and identical twin Courtney Lange of Geneva were pegging their hopes on a little dissimilarity. They had brought Sironen’s 3-year-old daughters, Kylie and Rylie — twins, of course — to compete for the title of least alike in their age group in the festival’s twins contests.
The two girls were only 57 days old when they made their first Twins Days appearance. They were judged most alike then, “which is kind of ironic,” Sironen said.
At the other end of the age spectrum, 98-year-olds Frances Peck Vincent and Helen Peck Zientek of Shaler, Pa., were reveling in their victory after being named the oldest twins at the festival. The two posed for pictures outside the contest tent, gold medals hanging from blue ribbons around their necks.
What’s the best part of being a twin? they were asked.
“You always have a friend,” Vincent said.
Zientek had a different answer.
“You can blame her for everything,” she said, pointing to her sister with a twinkle in her eye.
Sibling rivalry never gets old.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.