Those born Feb. 29 feel special, not slightedThis afternoon, Kayla Berg plans to celebrate her 6th birthday with a tattoo. But don’t alert the authorities yet.
By: By Tammy Swift, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — This afternoon, Kayla Berg plans to celebrate her 6th birthday with a tattoo.
But don’t alert the authorities yet.
Berg is technically 24. She was born Feb. 29, 1988, which means she only gets to celebrate her Leap Year birthday every four years and has only celebrated her “real” birthday six times.
The West Fargo resident doesn’t mind. “Ever since my birth I have been known as the girl who was born on Leap Year,” she said.
“Leaplings,” people born on Feb. 29, often receive lots of sympathy from others who assume they live a giftless, cake-deprived existence. So do couples who marry Feb. 29, which turns their anniversaries into quadrennial events. But those who have links to Leap Year say the quirky date makes them feel special, not slighted.
And they feel especially special today.
Even Berg’s arrival into the world was surrounded by publicity.
She and her parents, Sharon and Alvin Berg, were featured on the 6 p.m. news in 1988 as the family with the Leap Day baby.
In school, Berg was the only student she knew who had a Feb. 29 birthday. “I’ve actually enjoyed it. I feel special and unique,” she says.
On years devoid of Feb. 29, Berg celebrates quietly on March 1 with family and friends. But when Leap Year rolls around, she goes all out.
She celebrated her Sweet 16 with a huge pizza party and sleepover. When she turned 20, she visited the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn.
“I told people I’m 5 and I’m in a casino right now,” she says, laughing.
This year, Berg will continue to celebrate big. She’ll get her hair done, have dinner with family, plan a weekend celebration with friends and receive a tattoo of a Grateful Dead dancing bear on her ankle. Her body art will contain six psychedelic shades to commemorate her “sixth” birthday.
“I made sure I set it up a month in advance so I could get it,” says Berg, a CNA with Comfort Keepers in Fargo.
You know what they say, book before you leap.
Family ‘leaps’ together
Barb Walsvik and her family could be at the top of the Leap-heap for Feb. 29 events.
* Walsvik was born on Feb. 29, 1964, in Bismarck.
* Her aunt, Alwine Vetter of Bismarck, was born Feb. 29, 1932.
* Her brother and sister-in-law, John and Jeannine Wohl of Baldwin, N.D., were married on Leap Day in 1992.
* Her cousin and his wife, Norman and Lynette Boehm of McClusky, N.D., also took a matrimonial leap on Leap Day 2000.
Walsvik, an administrative assistant at Nodak Mutual Insurance Co., says her close-knit German-Russian family hasn’t deliberately staged any group Leap Year celebrations. However, they have wound up spending the day together because of all the weddings.
And Walsvik’s aunt, also her godmother, never fails to remember her niece on the birthday they share.
“She’s always called me every year, always,” the married mother of three says. “So then we get to wish each other happy birthday.”
Carolyn and Gary Hamness owe their Leap Day nuptials to Uncle Sam.
Their original plan was to get married on June 27, 1964. Then Gary received a letter from the draft board in January.
At that point, married men were exempt from the draft.
“I let him decide,” says Carolyn today, laughing. “Now he says he took life instead of three to four years.”
They chose Feb. 29 because it was a Saturday and a suitable compromise between the dates their mothers suggested.
They were married on an unseasonably warm Leap Day before 150 guests in the Hannaford (N.D.) Lutheran Church.
In their early years together, they lived in the Twin Cities. A county newspaper heard about their wedding date and sent out a reporter to do a winking story on the couple celebrating their “first” anniversary (actually their fourth) even though they had a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old baby.
Now retired and living in Thief River Falls, Minn., the Hamnesses typically observe their real Leap Day anniversaries with bigger gifts, such as jewelry and trips to Hawaii.
Today, they’ll celebrate their 48th anniversary at home, but only because Carolyn wants to save up money for a trip to Norway.
In the meantime, “we just have a lot of fun with it,” Carolyn says. “This will be our 12th anniversary, according to Leap Year, but our youngest child just turned 40.”
Have time, will travel
When Sharon and Gene Nayes decided to get married on Leap Day eight years ago, she only had one request:
When the “real” anniversary rolled out every four years, they needed to do something special.
“It can’t just be dinner out, unless it’s dinner out in Kansas City,” says Sharon.
That’s been an easy request to honor for these far-from-retiring Moorhead retirees.
Their mutual interests range from spending time with their kids and grandkids from previous marriages to golfing, fishing, playing cards and camping.
And, of course, traveling.
Gene has been to every U.S. state, while Sharon has been to all but two. “We never make plans,” Gene says. “We just go.”
During years without Leap Days, the couple celebrates their union on March 1, which also happens to be Gene’s birthday.
“He gets the glory on this one,” Sharon says.