Christmas Memories (Part 2: Twilights at Chimney Park)

Our next Christmas adventure is sure to become part of our yearly tradition, and I stumbled upon this gem on a family photoshoot. An old friend of mine needed some family photos done, so I suggested we head out to Chimney Park behind the local library as it has many nice spots for photos. Upon arriving, we discovered that there were people there decorating for an event that night. This worked out wonderfully for our photoshoot with the lovely Christmas decorations, and everyone there was very kind and patient with us.

A gentleman finally told me what all the decorating was about and invited us out to the event that evening. The event was “Twilights at Chimney Park”. For $5 we could see the lights, get a hot dog, hot chocolate, and s’mores, and enjoy various choirs singing carols. It seemed like a wonderful event to take my niece to, especially considering how much she enjoyed the Fairy Festival earlier in the year, so I proceeded to call and offer an invite and make plans to return that evening.

It was truly magical! You pay your fee, receive your tickets, and then the local elves whisk you into a winter wonderland filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas!

The first smell upon entering was that of hot chocolate, so of course, I stopped for a cup. We arrived early, so of course we were one of the first families in line to see Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Then we set out to explore the rest of the winter wonderland.

This tiny little park had magically exploded into a world of Christmas wonder. It was truly a fun and magical adventure, and I’m sure we will return year after year.

 

 

Christmas Memories (Part 1: Decorating and the Parade)

Christmas is over and a new year has begun, so we are left with but memories of the special things that happen at this most wonderful time of the year. Old traditions mix with new memories to say goodbye to one year and issue in the next.

So, with that being said, I will trot down memory lane and tell you about my Christmas. This year was a little different than most. My daughter turned 16 this year near Christmas, so a Sweet 16 Birthday Trip was scheduled during this holiday season. Because of this, we skipped many of the family gatherings in favor of a trip to Disney World. Yes folks, we skipped Christmas…but not entirely. Some traditions must be kept, and some traditions were sadly missed, but Christmas was still fun and exciting and especially special this year.

Now the tradition that always brings in the holiday season is of course the decorating. Every year on Thanksgiving Night we begin decorating the house for Christmas. When the guests are gone and our bellies are stuffed with turkey and all the fixings, we put on the Christmas music and bring the decorations down from the attic.

And of course, no Christmas tree is complete without a cat sleeping under its branches.

Every year we each get a new ornament, so each one we place on the tree has a special Christmas memory attached.

This year the nativity went up on the mantel.

And after all was said and done, we had a beautifully decorated tree…if I do say so myself.

Even the sock monkeys helped to decorate this year.

Then the day after Thanksgiving, we finished up the decorating with the outside lights.

The next big Christmas tradition is the local annual Christmas Parade. Each year my husband’s workplace has a float in the parade, so usually, we are all in the parade in some fashion. This year, only my daughter followed the float while I took pictures and my husband prepared for the after-parade kids’ party.

There were so many beautiful floats this year, and everyone seemed to be having such a great time. Like with every year though, I think half of our town was in the parade leaving the viewing audience a bit thin. But it’s all fun!

And that is the end of Part 1. Be sure to keep your eyes open for Part 2: Twilights at Chimney Park.

Independence Day 2015

This past Saturday our little city joined with the rest of the country in celebrating our nation’s 239th birthday. The city square was decorated in red, white and blue, and the streets were closed to automobile traffic so citizens could play and celebrate in safety. Like every outdoor event, however, the weather could not be planned. Mother Nature threatened to ruin our festivities with torrents of rain. Around lunchtime, she finally relented and our day of celebration began. Before long, the historic downtown square was filled with residents, young and old…

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…and even a few furry ones. And our furry residents can attest to the fact that the dog days of summer have truly begun. They trotted around the park, tongues hanging out and panting, eagerly awaiting affection from everyone they met.

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Except for maybe this little lady. She was a bit frightened of all the strangers, but her daddy held her close and introduced her to a few of the girls.

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The celebration officially began with a golf cart parade. Some of our residents entered their patriotic carts in the parade and circled the downtown square showing off their creations, waving at the crowds, and throwing candy out for the kids.

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After the parade, the day was filled with all sorts of festivities. There was…
…dancing

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…a couple of princesses wandering about

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…ice cream

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…snow cones

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…a spider jump

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…a water slide

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…a petting zoo

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…balloons

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…and much, much more!
Fun was to be had by all. Everywhere you went you were surrounded by happy smiling faces

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And there was never a reason to fear with our faithful police officers and explorers out there keeping us safe….

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…and maybe taking a break to color a bit too. 🙂

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To beat the heat many of the townsfolk took a little run through the water. Our local firehouse was kind enough to put a regulator on the corner hydrant and let us play in the water every hour on the hour for a few minutes.

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The utility department brought out the big bucket truck and let people take rides to get a sky view of the town square. I took a little trip up and got a few bird’s eye shots of the festivities.

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I also took a few sky view shots of some city landmarks as well.

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And I was accompanied by this fine gentlemen who drove the bucket and made sure I didn’t fall out. I hope I didn’t scare him too much leaning over the side to get my photos.

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There were so many wonderful people out celebrating, and I just love getting candid shots of all the beautiful people.

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Uncle Sam was even there to say hello.

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And of course, we ended our wonderful birthday celebration with a fireworks extravaganza!

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I am so glad I have the privilege of calling this wonderful little city home.

Graduating in Style!

Steampunk style that is! This proud homeschool Mama just awarded her firstborn with a high school diploma. Of course, since we homeschool, there was no formal graduation with a cap and gown. My son didn’t want all of that hoopla. In fact, he didn’t even want a party, but since my niece was also graduating from high school, and her little sister was graduating from Kindergarten, it was decided that a party must be thrown. So throw one we did. My sister and I went shopping and managed to come up with a pretty good little party for our graduates, if I do say so myself. Pretty good for last minute anyway.

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Of course, being a photographer, I couldn’t let them have just any old regular party. We needed something with a little pizzazz that was photo worthy. So with a few things we already had and a few new things, we did this party up steampunk style!

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Now my son loves to frequent a local bar with his friends on karaoke night, so we headed over to Celtic Tavern to make arrangements for our little party. The people there are amazing, and they all know my Jonathan, so we had no trouble procuring a table reservation for the evening and setting up our little party. It was even live music night, so we were able to enjoy some guitar pickin’ and singin’ as well. (Live music night is Friday by the way, and karaoke is Saturday…just in case you’re ever in Old Towne Conyers, GA. Just tell the folks at Celtic Tavern that Jonathan’s mom sent ya. They’ll take care of ya.)

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(This is Jonathan with Kristen, the beautiful bartender.)

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(And this gentleman is Greg, the co-owner of this fine establishment.)

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After the grads arrived, I stole them away from the party for a photo session. Old Towne Conyers ended up being a great place for a few Steampunk cosplay shots.

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The kids were a little concerned that I was going to get them arrested for climbing up on the side of that building, but no one said anything…except for that guy that hollered something at us when we were on the railroad tracks, and there was that guy on the motorcycle who told my niece she dropped a feather (she was wearing a feather boa). All was well, and we didn’t get into any trouble.

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Old Towne Conyers made for a good place to find a few out-of-the-ordinary graduate gifts for our out-of-the-ordinary young adults as well. They film The Originals here, so the town has its share of New Orleans-style curio shops with a witchy, vampire flair. We found our treasures at The Black Cat Curio. The young lady running the shop was super sweet and had lots of stories to tell. And her fellow shopkeepers, Peanut the cat and…well, the other cat whose name I can’t remember…helped us find the perfect gifts for our graduates. The gifts we found had nothing to do with graduation, and they may have seemed a bit odd to most. Our graduates, however, thought they were perfect.

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And the rest of the family…well, they were just miffed that we went to the shop without them. My other sister headed out the door with the kiddos after we ate to see if the shop was open. It was closed, unfortunately, so they headed over to Creamberry’s for some yummy ice cream. Our beloved tavern doesn’t have much of a dessert selection, but I’m not too sure how they felt about those crazy people I call family bringing the ice cream in there to eat, and I know how I felt about the fact that they didn’t bother bringing me any! And it was cotton candy flavored! They did let me have a taste, so it was all good.

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Ah, but a great time was had by all, and we managed to leave early enough for the regulars to have their bar back for the evening.  I’m sure they were quite relieved when our crazy crowd left.

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And there was this one thing with wearing the mini-hat like a unicorn horn that I never quite understood.

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There are so many great people and places in this area we call home, and I am glad my son got to grow up and graduate here. Now he has the task of choosing what the next chapter of his life will be, and his sister…well, she had so much fun she started making plans for her graduation party which won’t happen for three more years yet.

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And before I sign off, I’d like to say:

Congratulations Class of 2015! May the road before you be filled with love and adventure!

Ye Olde Georgia Renaissance Festival

It’s that time of year again. Time for lords and ladies, pirates and wenches, fairies and fire eaters. There are only a couple of weekends left if you want to make it to this year’s festivities in Georgia, so you better hurry on out. This coming weekend is a pirate weekend! Arrr!

Speaking of pirates, I believe my husband transformed into one this year. Of course, he didn’t have a hat, so we set out for the hatter’s booth straightaway. We found the perfect headpiece to round out his pirate look. And since I spent so much time playing around with editing settings, I think I will share with you my cartoon-like photos. (If you want to see the regular photos, just click on the link to my Facebook page below).

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A might handsome pirate he doth make, methinks. Arrr!

I of course went for a gentler look. My intent was to be a fairy, but most everyone I ran across decided I was the Butterfly Queen…who is a fairy, but shhh, don’t tell.

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Our daughter was a fairy too. Of course, everyone recognized her as a fairy. She had wings.

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At the hatter’s establishment, our son momentarily transformed into Robin Hood…or perhaps one of his merry men.

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But alas, his transformation was short-lived.

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We also picked up the frozen queen and the queen mother along the way. The tiny queen was a little concerned that she might be recognized by her enemies, so we purchased a lovely mask from one of the visiting merchants.

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Near the gates to the kingdom sat a lovely couple who trained birds. They allowed us to meet their kind birds, a lovely little goose family and a delightful cockatoo. The cockatoo entertained us immensely trying to eat my toule and make a nest in a fair maiden’s hair. He even flitted over to say “hello” to our son.

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The tiny frozen queen adored the gosling, and after she visited the little one for a bit, she headed out for some adventure!

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Afterward, we headed over to a dragon hatchery. What adorable creatures we found!

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And of course, there were many more festivities…The Tortuga Twins, jousting, dog shows, face painting, and many more. It was a lovely visit, and we all look forward to returning next year.

(A big thank you to my husband, Jason Cato, for being the photographer this year, so I could enjoy the festival.)

Fairy Festival!

Every year in my hometown, we have a Fairy Festival. This year I took my niece since she loves fairies and all things pink and girly. You wouldn’t know this rough and tumble girl was such a girly-girl, but she is. We set out that Saturday afternoon in search of fairies…and Kat’s friend, Sam, who makes wonderful clay creations (check out her Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShipwreckSamantha?ref=shopsection_shophome_leftnav).

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Well, the last time I went to this festival was the first year it was held. Little did I know, the festival had grown tremendously. I searched high and low for a parking space, and eventually, I just had to make one. But we got parked, and headed to the beginning of the trail into Chimney Park (that’s where the fairies come out to play). It didn’t take us long to see evidence of the presence of these little sprites.

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We began to find fairy houses in various places throughout the park. And these sweet creatures had put up picture frames everywhere, so we took a couple of photos in the frames.

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These adorable little sprites also created bubbles for us to play in, and they had even invited a grand wizard bring out his bubble wands to create giant magical bubbles for all of the children.

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Then the most extraordinary thing began to happen. Ordinary children began to transform into fairies before my very eyes. Even my beautiful little niece began to sprout wings and gain an ethereal glow.

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Fairies began to pop up everywhere…little ones, big ones. They came in all ages and sizes and displayed a lovely array of bright rainbow colors.

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There was even a dog fairy!

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They were so beautiful! And I’m not sure, but I think my daughter may have fancied herself their queen as she paraded through the park with a fluffy little dragon on her shoulder.

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As we wandered around the chimney ruins…

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…we came upon the Great White Owl, guardian of the fairy village.

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He granted us entrance, and we were able to see the houses of the resident sprites.

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Each home was as unique as the fairy that lived there, and perhaps just as colorful. It was such a delight and privilege to be allowed to see the fairy homes.

After visiting the village, we wandered across the bridge and through the tunnel to dance in the ribbon forest.

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Then we painted some fairy rocks and hung our wishes on the wishing tree.

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All too soon it was time for us to leave the enchanted land and allow the fairies to return to the fairy realm. But they promised they would return next year about the same time, and we eagerly await their return.

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The Cherry Blossom Festival

…and more!

A couple of weeks ago, the City of Conyers had its annual Cherry Blossom Festival at the Horse Park. My daughter was scheduled to dance in this event, and since the last spend-the-night with my niece had been cancelled due to sickness, we picked her up for the weekend and took her with us.

This was the first time I had ever attended the Cherry Blossom Festival. The Horse Park was filled with craft and food vendors as far as the eye could see. There were moonwalks and games and concerts. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were ready to enjoy it.

My daughter had to be on stage 2, so we headed there first. It was all the way to the back, so we passed many a booth on the way there. Since she wasn’t scheduled to dance for a little while, my niece, my husband, and I headed back to browse the crafts. There were so many wonderful things. My niece, of course, wanted it all. The requests to purchase things were never-ending. She knew we weren’t going to buy her things, and that spurred her requests on even more just to aggravate us. We just laughed and did our best to keep up with her.

We wandered around for quite some time, and then it was time for my daughter to dance.

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Or so we thought. Actually, we still had to wait a few minutes. Since we had to wait, I went over to take photos of the cherry blossoms. My niece decided to follow, so I got some cute photos.

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Then she decided to go sit back down with her uncle, and she stole his glasses.

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Then it was time to watch some dancing. The girls danced beautifully.

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And that was all for our Cherry Blossom Festival experience this year, but that was certainly not the end of the weekend. My niece spent the night again, so the next day, we had a tea (coffee) party. With every tea party, we must have cookies, so we made some chocolate chip cookies. Being an aspiring little entrepreneur, she decided to open a cafe and sell those cookies.

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She was soon on the antique phone taking orders.

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She took an order for some cookies, and it was going to take 100,000,000 hours to fill the order. Of course, we were curious, so we did the math. It was going to take over 11,000 years to fill that order. I guess we’ll just have to leave a prime directive for future generations for that one.

Soon, we made it to actually consuming our coffee and cookies.

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And we were joined by some sock monkeys who came over for the party. Bogart and Noel were fun companions, and they loved the cookies.

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All too soon, our weekend came to a close, and my niece had to return home. The dreaded school monster awaited her the next day. Soon, however, we will get to celebrate her birthday, and what fun that will be!

Dragon Con!

Yes! After years of saying, “I really want to go to Dragon Con and see (insert actor/actress here)”, this geek girl finally got the chance to attend the biggest sci-fi/cosplay event in America. And what’s even better, Mama Bear has trained her padawans well, as they were more than excited to attend the convention. Costume talk went on for several weeks, and in the end, we opted for the cheap, whatever we could put together from our closets, route. As it was our first time, this seemed the best thing to do. However, plans for next year are already underway.

We only attended one day this year (it’s a four-day Labor Day weekend event). We road MARTA into town early, early to get our Saturday ticket and make it to the parade. We found a place right next to the street which was AWESOME! However, it was also close to the end of the parade route, which was not so awesome considering we had to wait forever for the parade to reach us, and it was hot. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but that was possibly the longest parade I have ever attended. My camera, however, was ready for every minute of it, and my vantage point allowed for some great close-up shots.

Now, I am a geek girl at heart, but I am not exactly familiar with all of the games, shows, and fantasy realms of fandom. My darling padawans had to educate me during the parade and later when going through the pictures. I am now considerably more familiar with the new sci-fi/fantasy elements, and I am eagerly awaiting next year’s convention when perhaps I may get a chance to actually peruse the vendor hall. For now, however, I will share with you the treasures of my adventure.

My greatest treasure, to the joy of all of you Star Wars fans, was this awesome shot of a very well-done Darth Mal who stopped and posed for me.

Darth Mal

There were some great Star Wars costumes, and I caught some pretty good shots of a couple of wookies, a storm trooper, and an emperial fighter. My daughter came home with a not-so-great souvenir from this portion of the parade. She learned that it is not a wise idea to fist bump a storm trooper, as trooper gloves are a little rough on soft girl hands.

Chewbacca Emperial Fighter Pilot Storm Trooper

For the Star Wars spoof fans, there was, of course, Spaceballs.

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And somehow, Jack Sparrow managed to get himself caught up in all this Star Wars business. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Too much rum would be my guess, however.

Jack Sparrow as a Storm Trooper

Of course, being a Whovian, I was waiting for the Doctor Who portion of the parade. I had already caught a glimpse of The Doctor and Rose before the parade…

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And we were seated behind a cute,red dalek (I thought she was a ladybug at first, until she stood up to take pictures.)

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Eventually, the Whovian portion of the parade came around, and I got a few decent shots.

Dalek K-9 The Blood Family Army Dalek The Doctor

Later in the day we ran into Amy Pond. She had tally marks all over her. We weren’t quite sure why, and then we noticed that we had them too. I wonder what it was all about. Let me find the pic.

A Silent and Amy Pond

Oh…it was because of that guy. I totally forgot him. Why did I forget him?

Sadly, we missed the Time Lord Fest. It took place on Sunday, so we were a day early. However, we did get to see the Premiere of Episode 2 of the current season that evening with 2000 other fans. That was “Fantastic!”

As the parade went on for quite some time, I will refrain from boring you with the details and simply share some of my favorite photos with a little snippet about who they were perhaps. Every fandom I could think of and many that I had never seen before were represented, and it was a blast.

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Mandelorian Mercenaries:

Mandelorian Mercenaries Mandelorian Mercenaries Mandelorian Mercenaries

Halo (I think):

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And some Ghostbusters…

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And a few ghastly creatures for them to vanquish (though I’m pretty sure Sam and Dean Winchester might be better equipped to handle these guys)…

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Disney:

Mr. Fredri;ks Ursula

Steam Punk:

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Planet of the Apes:

Planet of the Apes Planet of the Apes

A few super-heros:

Robin Tony Stark White Ranger

A few more I don’t know but got good pictures of:

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And the Star Trek crew had a band: