VALLEY FAMILY Twins fest stirs a big two-do

YOUNGSTOWN -- Sue Brandenstein can remember a time when she didn't know who her children were. No, she didn't have amnesia, and no, her children weren't kidnapped at birth.
She is the mother of two sets of twins -- George and Christopher, age 7; and Katelyn and Scott, age 11. Her oldest daughter, Tiffany, 12, is without a double, but she doesn't mind.
The Brandensteins are one of several local families who will be attending the 27th annual Twins Days Festival held in Twinsburg, Ohio, this weekend.
The festival brings together thousands of twins and multiples from around the world each year, and it is touted as "the largest annual gathering of twins in the world" by the Guinness Book of Records.
The mother of five said she has been making the 45-minute drive to Twinsburg for the festival since her kids were babies. Highlights of the twin extravaganza include a parade, a giant group photo, a talent show and an array of contests.
"My favorite part is the picture taken, and the way people dress," said Brandenstein. "It's amazing what these people wear."
Duplicate, triplicate
Twins and multiples dress identically for the festival, and Brandenstein said she's seen everything from cowboys to the Taco Bell Chihuahua -- in doubles and triples.
Katelyn and Scott, who as infants won the "Least Alike Male/Female" pair competition, have come a long way. At last year's festival they won again -- for "Most Alike Male/Female" pair. Their mother said that as a baby, Scott, with his blond curly hair, barely resembled his straight-brown-haired sister, but that has all changed with time.
Brandenstein may not have had any problems telling Katelyn and Scott apart, but the identical George and Christopher are another story.
When they were babies, activities like feeding and changing were a bit confusing unless there was a way to distinguish the two children.
"We had to paint one of their toenails with red nail polish to tell them apart," Brandenstein said. "From behind it's hard to tell them apart, and you have to listen to them speak -- in some pictures it's very difficult."
Even now, confusion can still occur -- mainly at school, or with friends. The boys' playmate next door calls them his "buddies" when he can't tell them apart, she said. George and Christopher even had trouble picking themselves out of a family photo.
A special bond
Despite the confusion, the twins seem to share a connection with their respective doubles. Brandenstein said Katelyn and Scott may fight with everyone else, but they don't fight with each other. She described an instance when George and Christopher displayed an eerie kind of connection.
"When they were babies getting vaccinations I was holding one while the other one got injected," she explained. "At the moment the other one got injected, they both screamed at the same time."
The Brandenstein kids don't have to go very far to find other "pair" playmates. Their school contains 11 to 12 sets of twins, and six sets of twins live on their street.
Youngstown is not lacking in twins. Brandenstein, an active member of the Youngstown Mothers of Twins Club, said the organization has about 80 local members.
The group even publishes a monthly newsletter. The publication's title? The Twindicator.

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