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Excerpts from some published favorites.

Ofelia DeYoung started telling her daughter about her wedding dress the day she was born.


“When the doctor said, ‘Oh, you have a little girl,’ that’s the first thing that came to my mind, ‘Oh, she has to wear my dress – our dress!’” she said of Jennifer’s birth, “And then when I held her in my arms I said, ‘Oh, I hope one day, you get to wear that dress!’ ”


As Jennifer grew in Clovis, her mom talked often of the beauty of the dress: its silk, its row of buttons, the embroidered beaded flowers and the modesty of its high collar and long sleeves.


But Jennifer responded again and again that she was never going to wear it.


The wedding dress got a nickname, “the fertile dress,” which was a little spooky.


Bettye DeYoung, the first to wear it, gave birth nine months and five days after wearing it. Ofelia DeYoung, her daughter-in-law, gave birth nine months and six days after wearing it.

I learned of these imaginative people last year after spotting a middle-aged man engaged in hand-to-hand combat near a Clovis playground while holding a large scorpion shield. Half a year later, the intrigue that spectacle produced endures.

So I approach the larpers again Jan. 16 – this time, ready to be trained in the ways of the warrior.

Racing has a kind of romantic draw for many of the racers.


“It’s kind of like firefighters, kids kind of look up to you,” said Mark Thompson, 58, of Selma. “It’s almost like you are a knight in the olden’ days. You kind of go out with your shiny horses and do battle and then the winner gets to parade around and …”




“You don’t always get the lady,” he continued with a laugh, “but you can parade around anyway.”


Watching his buddies start their engines at the Hanford track, he added with a smile, “We’re going to have a joust here coming up pretty quick. … It ends up being a pissing contest, you know how that goes.”

A big, satisfied smile brightens her face. She’s wearing a pink “flowy angel-type sweater” that makes her feel like she has wings, and a large green elf hat that a relative gave her for Christmas. She says she used to wear a red Santa hat because “Santa is supposed to be a symbol of joy,” then she starts singing “Joy to the world!”


“A symbol of joy, that’s what I want to be! I want to be like that cup of joe everybody have to get every morning! … Honey, here it is! Let me be that cup of joe.”

“There’s like a dictionary of different cryptids, or strange creatures — like there’s Bigfoot and the Chupacabra — there’s never been this before,” Banti said. “And no one has really been able to determine what it is.”


They remind Banti of “fairy people.” Camacho speculates nightcrawlers could be an “extraterrestrial insectoid,” approximately 3 feet tall and resembling a praying mantis.


Others see pants.

Stagecoach driver Burrel “Buckshot” Rambo Maier tells his cargo, a family of three, that it’s his first day on the job and he’s “a little nervous” as a pair of trotting horses pulling the coach embark upon the bumpiest stretch of their journey. The wagon jostles and dust flies, but the horses’ steady gait and the driver’s grizzled beard make the newbie act hard to believe. The family giggles and Maier slips a sly smile.

KettleHouse’s legacy of innovation and fun was top of mind as I admired head brewer Zach Nelson’s tie-dye shirt proudly advertising Fresh Bongwater. It took me back to epic 1998 news coverage of its hemp beer counterpart, Olde Bongwater, being side-eyed by federal authorities, which spawned fantastic urban legends about late-night raids. (Not true, by the way, Pils adds.)

Bella Rose Britt used to run princess parties for kids. It wasn’t really her thing.


She’s now pursuing a true passion: Saving venomous snakes from slaughter. Particularly, the infamous rattlesnakes prevalent throughout the foothills of the Sierra Nevada that often die by shotgun or shovel.


Britt took to Facebook on Sunday, posting a photo of herself armed with a snake hook and bucket, to offer her free snake-wrangling services.

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