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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Southwest border town world's Leap Year capital

The world’s best known leap year festival is the Stonehenge of small town shindigs. Skeptics have difficulty understanding what it all means and supernatural things routinely happen there.

How else could you explain the day the wife of rock superstar Graham Nash beseeched a 17-year-old granny to let him and his band play a gig in the high school cafeteria?

Yes, the Leap Year Capital of the World in the border straddling co-towns of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, is once again ready to invite international notoriety as the world’s biggest quadrennial leaper colony.

More than 80 leap year babies and their families are expected to converge on the schizophrenic town to confuse bartenders who will have to weigh the legalities of thirsty celebrants whose IDs declare they’ve had as few as six birthdays.

It’s a week when the people the calendar forgot get lavished with attention and celebratory honors. Week-long events beginning Saturday include a car show, golf tournament, and a parade of those who call themselves leaplings.

The fanfare is a giant leap from its humble origins from 1988 after leap year baby Mary Ann Brown (born Feb. 29, 1932; she turns 20 on Wednesday) read a news story stating that her neighbor, Birdie Lewis, was also a leap year baby.

“I went across the street and said to Birdie, ‘You know, I’m a leap year baby, too. Let’s go to the chamber of commerce and see if we can make this a promotional thing for the town.’ That’s just what we did.”

With no budget, that first festival was held in Anthony Auto Parts, the family store run by her late husband Joe Bob Brown. Nine people gathered for punch and cake.

Despite some local opposition from those who’d rather focus on what Anthony has to offer the other 1,460 days, the festival everyone seems to forget has been growing in bounds and leaps ever since.

Anthony isn’t the only place where Leap Year is something special. Many hotels are seizing on the calendrical oddity. The Z NYC Hotel in Manhattan is offering a “Leap Over To The Z” package offering free accommodations for anyone born on Feb. 29. A second night is just $229 (that’s 2-29) and has $29 dinner for two at its Diner 247.

But you’ll have to be in Anthony to enjoy the cosmic quirkiness of Leap Year.

Entertainment will be provided by BarTab and 6-year-old singer songwriter Derek Apodaca (DOB 2-29-1988).

“We’re really excited,” he says. “My family’s griping that I won’t be spending my leap year birthday with them, but this is going to be a lot of fun.”

BarTab are following in some big musical shoes. One of the most revered names in rock headlined the festival in 2000.

Turns out a cornerstone member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is married to a lovely leapling.

Susan Nash contacted Mary Ann Brown and asked if Nash could perform at the festival as a birthday present to her and other leapers.

Jerry Garland Brown said, “My mom had no idea who he was, but she said, sure, tell him he and his friends are welcome to come on down.”

That’s how Nash came to perform in the Gadsden High School cafeteria on Leap Year 2000.

“He played ‘Our House,’ ‘Teach Your Children Well,’ and so many great hits,” says Jerry. “He told stories about all the songs and some of them were so beautiful they brought tears to our eyes. So you never know what’s going to happen on Leap Year here in the Leap Year Capital of the World.”

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