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This story starts with a grandfather looking for something exciting to do with his 5-year-old twin granddaughters.
The grandpa — yes, it’s me — includes among his character flaws a complete inability to tell the girls, Ellie and Bella, apart, even though their mother insists they are fraternal, not identical, twins.
“They look identical to me,” their Grandpa said.
How else to explain him saying, “Great job, Ellie.” Only to hear, “I’m Bella.”
Or, “How about some lunch, Bella?”
This spring, Grandpa decided it was time to introduce the girls to miniature golf. Vitense Golfland is in the neighborhood.
Grandpa said, “My dad first brought me here almost 60 years ago, Ellie.”
Grandpa figured the girls might have a golf gene. After all, their uncle Quinn was a junior champion.
But it turned out they liked everything about miniature golf except the golf, quickly running off to play on a slide.
Grandpa said, “That’s not our hole, Bella.”
Who’s to say they were wrong? It may have been Mark Twain (although maybe not) who called golf “a good walk spoiled.” What 5-year-old wouldn’t prefer playing on a slide to trying “to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole with weapons singularly ill-equipped for the task,” as Winston Churchill described golf (although maybe not).
The next day, I was commiserating about the failed mini-golf outing with my friend Steve O’Neill, best known for his long tenure running the Harmony Bar golf outing like Jimmy Hoffa ran the Teamsters.
“Take them to Twinfest,” Steve said. He explained that in 2017 his East Side friend, Pam Blair, and her twin sister, Pat Blair, launched a festival at the East Side Club celebrating twins. The third edition is June 16, from noon to 3 p.m., at the East Side Club.
Pam and Pat are from Lombard, Illinois. They’re identical twins born seven minutes apart on May 22, 1957. They came to Madison for college — helping pioneer the women’s hockey club on campus — and stayed. Today, they each operate landscaping businesses: Pam’s is Gemini Landscape Services, Pat’s is Blair Lawn & Landscape.
“We couldn’t work together as twins,” Pam said with a chuckle when we spoke last week. “We tried for like two days. When you are identical twins, you have an incredible bond, but you also know how to push each other’s buttons. It wasn’t going to work.”
But their collaboration on Twinfest has been a success. Pam said the idea came to her in a dream. The first year, more than 40 sets of twins showed up — 200 people all told. Non-twins (“singletons,” in the jargon of Twinfest) are welcome, too.
“Some people just come and gawk,” Pam said. “It’s really amazing to see all these twins.”
There’s a raffle, a twins trivia contest, musical chairs for the adults and other games for kids. Last year the ages of the twins ranged from six months to 85, and people came from surrounding states. One husband and wife brought their two sets of twins.
Last week, Grandpa called his daughter, Olivia. “I want to take the girls to Twinfest,” he said, explaining how he’d heard about the event and talked to the founder. “It’s coming again in June.”
“They’ve been to it,” Olivia said.
“They went with their father. They had fun. They were in a big group photo.”
Let Grandpa smile and state for the record that his (he says identical) granddaughters are beautiful, smart and talented.
Beyond that: Tennis, anyone?
Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.
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