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Leap Year Day Festival returns to border towns (1:52 p.m.)

By Diana Alba Soular / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Posted:   02/06/2012 01:55:21 PM MST

LAS CRUCES - For most of the past year, fans of a peculiar, once-every-four-year celebration that takes place in both Anthony, N.M., and Anthony, Texas, were worried.

After all, the main sponsor of the Leap Year Day festival had dropped out. And it seemed the event would not happen for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century in the two communities, which together bill themselves as the Leap Year Capital of the World.

But an effort in recent days by residents from both sides of the two-state border has given the celebration new life: It's back on the calendar.

Indeed, several residents and business owners who couldn't stand the thought of a Leap Year Day without a festival had been planning small-scale events independently, to give the celebration some sort of presence. In the past week, the effort has snowballed.

"Ironically, we've gone from not having a Leap Year Day festival at all to having the largest one we've ever had," said Jerry Garland Brown, a business owner whose mom helped kickstart the first-ever celebration in 1988.

This year, events will run intermittently between Feb. 25 and March 4, according to Brown. Most times in past years, the celebration has lasted between two and four days.

The 10-member Anthony New Mexico-Texas Lion's Club volunteered recently to help organize events the weekend before Feb. 29. A crafts show, live music and refreshments will take place at the Red Rooster Café, located on the Texas side, according to a tentative schedule.

Hector Giron, secretary-treasurer for the Lion's Club, said most of the members work during the week and couldn't host events on Leap Year Day - a Wednesday.

The event, over the years, has attracted people from around the country - and a few from around the world - who were born on Leap Year Day. They share the unusual trait of having an official birthday only once every four years, which creates a sort of camaraderie.

Mary Ann Brown, a 60-year-resident of Anthony and one of two women who originated the festival idea by pitching it to the local chamber of commerce, is a Leap Year birthday celebrant herself. The first party took place with just three weeks' notice at the business belonging to her husband.

"The reason we started it is we felt it was something that would promote our community worldwide," she said.

Since then, the event has attracted Leap Year birthday celebrants from around the country and the world, said Mary Ann Brown, who'll turn 20 this year - or 80, depending upon how you look at it.

Mary Carter, director of the nonprofit Women's Intercultural Center in Anthony, N.M., said the Leap Year festival is a "positive" for the community. It tends to attract visitors to not only Anthony, but also the region, which is an economic benefit.

"We're so interconnected," she said. "It's beneficial for all the communities from Las Cruces to El Paso."

Giron said the Anthony Chamber of Commerce will post information on its website.

Diana Alba Soular can be reached at (575) 541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular

2012 Worldwide Leap Year Festival

Anthony, N.M., & Anthony, Texas

Feb. 25

All day - Car show, crafts fair, games, live music, refreshments at the Red Rooster Café, 209 W. Washington, St., Anthony, Texas

Event times to be announced.

Feb. 26

4:30 p.m. - First-ever festival ice hockey game, featuring the El Paso Rhinos vs. the Dallas Ice Jets, at Rhinos arena, 4100 E. Paisano Drive, El Paso. Free tickets and free T-shirts to Leap Year Festival participants and attendees.

Feb. 27

9 a.m. - 6th quadrennial Worldwide Leap Year Capital golf scramble tournament at Anthony Country Club Golf Course, 2100 W. O'Hara Road, Anthony, N.M.

Feb. 28

11:30 a.m. - Free tour of La Viña Winery for Leap Year Day birthday celebrants at La Viña Winery, 4201 S. N.M. Hwy. 28, La Union, N.M.

Noon to 5 p.m. - Free wine-tasting for Leap Year Day birthday celebrants. $5 wine-tasting for all other adults.

Feb. 29 - Leap Year Day

Leap Year Day parade

Re-enactment of the first Leap Year Day party (from 1988) at 709 S. Main St., Anthony, Texas.

A birthday party

March 1-4

Anthony New Mexico-Texas Lion's Club annual carnival and festival, featuring Bennetts Amusements

Event times to be announced.

For further information, contact Jerry Garland Brown at (915) 886-3387

Source: Jerry Garland Brown, event organizer

Learn more

Look for more details about Leap Year Day festivities to be posted here: