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Anna Virginia, 24

Puppeteer and organizer

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Virginia says she "didn't plan to be a puppeteer in life — it just sort of stuck." Growing up in Baton Rogue, La., she and her friends would try to get bands to make tour stops in their city, but they had a hard time finding enough local acts to open for the headliners. So Virginia "just started getting into puppets" to provide an opener, she says.

It would be tempting to dismiss her ideas as pure whimsy if Virginia didn't have such a successful track record for planning and executing events. Her most visible project is the Bizarre Market — an open-air street fair where local artists and organizations set up booths and sell their wares, donating a percentage of the proceeds to local nonprofits. The market has donated more than $3,000 to such organizations as Art180 and the READ Center.

Then there's Best Friends Day, a less-publicized event with a loyal — and growing — following. It started as a last-day-of-summer party at a grungy area water park for Virginia and 50 of her closest friends. The next year they added bands, and the year after that, it became a four-day affair complete with scavenger hunt and talent show. "It just started with a good idea that became something big," Virginia says.

What's next: Virginia performs at "Pull the Strings," a puppet festival at Chop Suey Books March 26, and at the third annual 24-Hour Bookman at midnight April 23. The program will include her old standby, "The Pirates and the Vikings," a new work about a pair of canine private eyes, and "Spoken For," a new act that's going on the road with her this summer. The next Bizarre Market is April 30 from noon until 5 p.m. After that, Virginia plans to launch her biggest project yet: a full-production of Jesus Christ Superstar with life-size puppets. — Amy Biegelsen



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