You just never know who you'll run into when you go to something like the Exotic Bird & Animal Expo, which held its second event in Bakersfield Sunday at the Kern County Fairgrounds.

Sure there were lots of kids oooing and ahhing at the incredible array of birds.

And the snakes were cool too, in their own slithery way.

"You want to pet her? Is it a her?" said Vanessa Gaitan as she gingerly held a sleek-looking Mexican black king snake.

Her  5-year-old daughter, Avery Almanza, watched with a serious expression as the snake uncoiled in Gaitan's outstretched hands.

She reached a small hand up and touched the snake's tail.

"It's soft," she whispered.

And then there were John and Judith Florian, looking at the finches — specifically the "Cordon Bleu" finches with their soft blue feathers and cheery red cheek dots.

The Florians already have plenty of finches at home because, as Judith said, they have a "beautiful song" and are fun to watch.

"We like to travel in the motor home," John said, his accent still prevalent despite nearly 60 years living in the United States. "And we have to take all the damn birds with us plus three dogs!"

But he was good humored about the prospect of more birds as Judith perused the finch cages.

Where are you from originally seemed like a natural question based on their accents.

"Hungary," Judith said with a broad smile.

"Oildale," John chimed in, mischievously.

How'd they end up in Bakersfield?

Oh, the usual way.

They escaped from Communist Hungary in 1957, trudging through snow-covered farm fields into what was then known as Yugoslavia carrying their 8-month-old baby and covering themselves with sheets to avoid detection.

Wow! Didn't see that coming.

"Yeah, they were shooting at us," John said with such an easy matter-of-factness, it was hard to tell if he was joking.

They spent eight months in a detention camp where they were separated from each other and eventually made it to the states where John got work as a plastics engineer for Mobil.

"We've been in The Californian before," Judith said. "They wrote about our story."

That was back in 1976 after John wrote a letter to then Congressman Bill Thomas, thanking the American people for welcoming him and Judith into this country. Thomas entered the letter into the Congressional Record, John said.

There's so much more to their story.

But on Sunday, they were just another couple among hundreds, looking at finches, chatting with friends and enjoying the day.

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