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Beautiful creatures
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 The fourth annual Hummingbird Festival at Gaithers Plantation began Saturday with thousands of local residents turning out to enjoy the beautiful birds, great weather and the many artisan crafts on sale.

 This year's festival was moved ahead from its normal time in August to avoid the 100-plus-degree heat that comes later in the summer. Because of the change in season, fewer ruby-throated hummingbirds, native to this area of Georgia, were seen flying in the Gaithers' garden this year than in years past. The garden is designed specifically to attract the tiny creatures

At this time of year, many adult hummingbirds are still busy nesting and raising their hatchlings, according to Georgia Hummers Study Group President Rusty Trump, whose organization provided the original catalyst for the now popular festival.

Still banding presentations by the Georgia Hummers continued throughout the afternoon and will take place again today. Small bands are placed on the legs of the birds to allow Georgia Hummer members to track the hummingbird's migratory patterns when they begin their migration to South America later this summer.

"Everything's a little slow during June because they're nesting," said Georgia Hummer member Karen Theodorou, who was on hand yesterday to help with the banding of the birds.

A few lucky individuals were allowed to briefly hold the birds after they were banded. Four-year-old Sophia Stoming's hummingbird remained frozen on her hand for close to 20 seconds before finally flying away.

"It kind of vibrated a little," said Stoming, still smiling after the experience.

While the hummingbirds were the greatest attraction of the day, they weren't the only ones. Close to 85 vendors participated in this year's festival, according to event organizer and Georgia Hummer member Buddy Rowe.

Artist Adam Newman - who creates animal sculptures for the home and garden out of copper wire, metal, antiques, glass and shell - is selling his creations for the third consecutive year at the Hummingbird Festival. Between customers Saturday, Newman worked on his latest sculpture, a spider made out of wire and golf balls.

"You can't force it. I wish you could," said Newman of his artistic process.

Rowe said the festival had to turn several vendors away due to space constraints this year.

"We could have had a lot more [vendors]," Rowe said, adding that he expected the festival would expand to include more vendors next year.

In addition to the hummingbird banding presentations and shopping opportunities, a number of activities for children, including pony rides, train rides and a climbing wall, are at the festival this year.

Rowe said festival organizers are estimating between 7,000 and 10,000 people will attend the event this year, an increase from last year.

The Hummingbird Festival will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Gaithers Plantation, located at 270 Davis Ford Road, off of Henderson Mill Road, near Mansfield.