TWINSBURG — It was a fairy tale wedding recorded for the ages for two sets of twins, and a reunion for the history books for more than 3,800 other multiples at the 43rd Twins Days Festival.
As of press time Aug. 6, more than 1,960 sets of twins — including the oldest living set of siamese twins in history — had registered for the 2018 festival, which carried the video gaming theme, "Two-Player Mode." The all-time record for the largest gathering of twins in the world is 2,798 sets at the festival, according to organizers.
Brittany and Briana Deane (now Salyers), 32, of Hagerstown, Md., wed Josh and Jeremy Salyers, 34, of Tennessee, in a joint ceremony Saturday. The couple met at the festival years ago. The Learning Channel taped the ceremony, conducted interviews and will air the ceremony later this year.
"It’s really been a fairy tale come true. Marrying twins is something that’s very important to us," Briana (who married Jeremy) told PEOPLE, describing the ceremony as a "double fairy tale." "Even when we were little girls I can remember being in kindergarten, knowing that that is what we saw for ourselves."
The wedding had the theme, "Twice Upon A Time."
For another set of identical twin brothers, the festival carried a deep reminder of their first reunion, nearly 50 years ago in Puerto Rico.
Rene Gutierrez and his identical twin brother Juan Miranda, 53, were separated at birth by adoption. As Rene’s path took him to New York with his adopted mother and godfather, Juan remained on the island with his adopted parents.
In a remarkable chance encounter, Rene’s adopted mother took him from New York to Puerto Rico to meet her own father in the late 1960s — and Rene and Juan, then 4 years old, were reunited after a chance encounter when Rene’s godfather saw Juan on the street and mistook him for Rene.
"He said, ‘How could you be here? We just drove separate ways," Rene said.
The brothers, who now both reside in Delaware, were attending their eighth Twins Days Festival Aug. 5.
"It’s like a great family reunion here," Juan said. "Always people we haven’t seen in a while."
Larry and Gary Lane of Los Angeles were attending their fifth festival.
"We most enjoyed our time in 2001, when we met our good friends Nicholas and Frederick of Sweden ... and we’ve kept in touch with them ever since," Larry said.
The myriad multiples were greeted with excellent, if hot, weather both days of the festival.
While the Double Take Parade, twins contests, food and fun are big draws for the weekend, another key element is the research conducted.
Companies, universities and organizations from across the country set up booths to take advantage of the uncommon opportunity to study twins and other multiples. This year’s firms engaged in a variety of different studies.
Chance York, an assistant professor from Kent State University’s School of Journalism and mass communication, said conducted surveys on political and news behavior.
"News consumption rates may not all be social," York said. "Some may be hard-wired to be engaged in politics and the news. There’s no news gene, but there are probably genetic traits for someone who wants to keep an eye on their environment. I think there are some people who are more inclined to seek out the news."
York said this takeaway came from past surveys at Twins Days.
"There are biological foundations to communications behavior," he said. "This is a newer idea, it’s new to us. We compared identical and fraternal twin scores. By comparing within and between, we an see in theory how a behavior is social versus genetic."
This is the second year York has attended Twins Days.
"It’s fascinating to go there," York said. "From the scientific perspective, it’s a beautiful natural experiment. I love being out there, in the twins area always engaged in the research. They are always circling around our research booths. It’s a good time."
Cheryl Schalk and Kim Smith, twins who are originally of Warren, Pa., and now reside in Arizona and Erie, Pa., respectively, were attending their 19th festival, first coming to Twinsburg in 1999. The two dressed as Ms. Pacman for the "Two-Player Mode" theme.
Like the Lane brothers, they said they attend each year for the unique camaraderie found only between multiples. They met their best friends, Brenda and Linda of Maryland, in their first year.
"It’s like being with our own family," Kim said.