Today’s Leap Day a historical rarity for The Villager

By Don Ireland
Contributing writer

We’re all aware that Leap Year occurs only once every four years. Most of you loyal readers also know that copies of The Villager have been distributed every Thursday since 1982.

So, what’s Leap Year have to do with today’s newspaper?

Today (Thursday) marks just the second time this newspaper has been printed and distributed five times during the month of February – due to Leap Day.

The last time this newspaper was printed on a Leap Day was on Thursday, Feb. 29, 1996 (28 years ago, to save you from doing the math).

To jog your memory, 1996 was the year when home computers were just starting to gain popularity. Those who braved the “World Wide Web” typically did so by connecting their computer to their home phone line via a cable, then hearing the noisy sounds as the computer logged in to the internet. By the end of the year, about 10 million people were going online.

The year 1996 also was the year of the bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, Prince Charles divorced Princess Diana, internet sites Ebay and Ask Jeeves debuted, the mad cow disease swept through Britain and IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov. It also was the year that Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned successfully and Bill Clinton won a second term as U.S. President by beating Bob Dole.

So, for annual subscribers, you’ll actually get 53 editions of The Villager during 2024, so this week’s Leap Day edition should be considered something of a “free bonus copy.” There won’t be another Feb. 29 Leap Day falling on a Thursday until 2052.

Coincidentally, the Weekly Register-Call, our sister publication in Black Hawk and Gilpin County is the oldest newspaper in the state. It began printing each Thursday in 1862. For them, they have printed only five editions on Leap Day in those nearly 162 years.

Facts about Leap Years

Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year around 46 B.C. but his Julian calendar had a rule: Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year. The result was that thinking created too many leap years. Finally, 1,500 years later, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which established our current system of having a Leap Year every four years, which incidentally coincides with U.S. presidential elections during the past few centuries.

Here are some other tidbits regarding Leap Years:

Leap year babies are called “leapers” or “leaplings.”

Feb. 29 has traditionally been a day on which women were allowed to propose to men. (Think of it as a Sadie Hawkins’ dance gone wild. Of course, in 2024, such old-fashioned dating rituals have largely been replaced by apps, such as Match.com, Hinge, FarmersOnly.com, etc.)

Some cultures consider Feb. 29 an unlucky day.

Depending on their job, lots of people work for free on Feb. 29.

There’s a Leap Year Capital

The bordering cities of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, are the self-proclaimed “Leap Year Capital of the World.” They hold a three-day leap year festival that includes a huge birthday party for all leap year babies. 

There was be a birthday party for Leap Babies tonight at the Rollin’ Smoke BBQ, which is a 624-mile, or nearly 10-hour, drive from Black Hawk. Of course, if you hop on a private jet at Centennial Airport, fly into El Paso and drive north to Anthony, it’ll take less than 2-1/2 hours. This year’s festival runs from today through March 2 and will include music, vendors, food and other activities.

(Identification is required for birthday party participants.)

All in the family

According to the folks at Guinness World Records, there exists one known family that has produced three consecutive generations of Leap Babies. Peter Anthony Keogh was born in Ireland in on Feb. 29, 1940. His son, Peter Eric, was born in the U.K. on Leap Day in 1964, and his granddaughter Bethany Wealth was born in the U.K. on Feb. 29, 1996.

Leap Day movie history

The 12th Academy Awards ceremony, held on Feb. 29, 1940 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films for 1939 at a banquet in the Coconut Grove at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was hosted by Bob Hope, in his first of nineteen turns as host.

History was made at the event when Hattie McDaniel’s performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She was the first African American to win this award. 

Leap Day Fate?

According to the World Heritage Encyclopedia, in the 1800s, British-born James Milne Wilson, who later became the eighth premier of Tasmania, was born on a leap day and died on a leap day too. Wilson died on Feb. 29, 1880, on his “17th” birthday, or aged 68 in regular years.

Born on Feb. 29

The “Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies” is a club for people born on Feb. 29. More than 11,000 people worldwide are members. The goal of the group is to promote leap day awareness and to help leap day babies get in touch. They have a Facebook page, too.

Leaping ahead 10 days…

Daylight saving time will begin on Sunday, March 10 at 2 a.m., when our clocks should spring ahead for one hour. It’s part of the twice-annual time change that affects millions – but not all – Americans.

Happy Leap Day to our readers!