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These Twin Towns Are the “Leap Year Capital of the World”

By Frank Gargione
Read time: 4 minutes

Most travelers have probably never heard of the twin towns of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, which straddle the border between the two states. Located just north of El Paso and the Mexican border, they’re home to a combined population of just under 15,000 residents — which doesn’t exactly make them a big tourist draw. But if you count yourself among the rarefied group of Leap Year babies, then you might be familiar with these two towns that jointly proclaim themselves the “Leap Year Capital of the World.” Since 1988, the Anthonys have been a celebratory destination for people born on February 29. Below, discover how their unique claim to fame came to be and how you can join their annual Leap Year celebration.

What’s the Deal With Leap Year, Anyway?

Person looking at calendar of February in a leap year
Photo credit: Doucefleur/ iStock

If this all sounds like Greek to you, here’s a primer: Years are typically 365 days long to account for the amount of time the Earth takes to complete its orbit around the sun. But that number is actually rounded down from the exact 365.242190 days it takes to complete the cycle. Those five odd extra hours need to be accounted for somehow — otherwise, over centuries, the calendar would drift and we’d end up having summer in December. By adding an extra day every four years, on February 29, our months and our seasons keep on schedule.  

Since Leap Years only come around once every four years, they’ve become a source of intrigue, celebration, and even superstition: Londoners have a special Leap Year cocktail; in Taiwan, women serve aging parents pig trotter noodles for longevity. Meanwhile, the French look forward to a once-every-four-years newspaper edition, and in many places in Europe, Leap Day is an opportunity for women to propose marriage to men. There is a one-in-1,461 chance that a person will be born on Leap Day. In most years, Leap Year babies typically blow out their candles on February 28 or March 1. But the chance to actually do it on February 29 during Leap Years makes them all the more special — and that brings us back to Texas and New Mexico. 

Twin Towns Looking to Attract Visitors

Main street of Anthony, New Mexico
Photo credit: NPC Collectiom/ Alamy Stock Photo

In Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, many local residents work in agriculture, farming crops such as pecans, alfalfa, and cotton. Back in 1988, Anthony residents Mary Ann Brown and Birdie Lewis — neighbors who shared a Leap Day birthday — suggested a Worldwide Leap Year Festival and Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club to their Chamber of Commerce. They hoped their unique idea would attract visitors and fundraise for the community — the neighbors believed that no other place in the world regularly hosted such an event. The festival launched that same year, and eventually the governors of both states declared the Anthonys the “Leap Year Capital of the World.”

That first year, the festival amounted to a small birthday party for nine Leap Year babies (also known as 29ers) from cities throughout Texas and New Mexico. Though the celebration was tiny, it was believed to be the largest gathering of 29ers to date. By 1992, the festival grew to feature an arts and crafts fair, a golf tournament, an enormous birthday cake, and other events. It attracted a few thousand guests — along with 23 Leap Year babies from Texas and New Mexico, plus Arizona, California, Wisconsin, and even Germany. As the festival grew, famed musician Graham Nash performed at the 2000 festival in honor of his wife, who was another 29er. 

Though the festival wasn’t held in 2016 or 2020, it returned for 2024. Parents bring new babies celebrating their first Leap Year birthday, and Leap Year babies of all ages from all over the world can join the fun. The festival offers three days of festivitiesbarbecue dinners, parades, hot air balloon rides, live music, games, and a myriad of vendors all convening at the Anthony Municipal Park. Anyone with an actual February 29 birthday can get a free dinner from local joint Rollin’ Smoke BBQ.

Other Leap Year Festivities Around the World

Skyline of Melbourne, Australia
Photo credit: xavierarnau/ iStock

Outside of the Anthonys, there are several other ways Leap Year babies and their loved ones can celebrate around the world. In 2024, a Royal Caribbean Leap Day Birthday Bash cruise sailed from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas for a five-day celebration. It was the second such sailing — the first took place in 2020, after word got out that Anthony’s festival wasn’t happening. It attracted over 200 attendees, including 78 Leap Day babies. Other Leap Day events take place at Disney theme parks, in Las Vegas and New York City, and in Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada

In 1988, Raenell Dawn, another Leap Year baby, started a birthday club for 29ers. She called it Leap Year Babies Limited, the Limited Edition to the Human Race. That February, she promoted it on Los Angeles radio stations and shared a birthday cake with four other 29ers. That tiny club would ultimately merge with the Anthony-based Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club, and today, the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies has more than 12,000 members across 126 countries. 

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