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Bayside (Queens, New York)
The Virgin Mary's place in the Kern County sun

Even as the early morning chill lingered in this spot of desolate desert most frequented by dune buggies and dirt bikes, the sunlight was fierce, highlighting every shadow and making even the faintest color bright. A string of worn flags around an altar housing a statue of the Virgin Mary stood out in the light and hinted at the festive gathering that would soon take shape. By 7 a.m. scores of people had already arrived, carrying bottles of water, ice chests and rosaries. A few women carried roses, tulips and calla lilies and set them lovingly on the ground near the altar. "I look forward to these days," said Rosie Gaines, 77, a retired aircraft worker from Lancaster. "I...

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