Martin Goodkin likes to say American presidents can’t be chosen without his blessing.
This year, the retired gay-rights activist and author will celebrate his birthday, something he does only every four years. Goodkin is one of almost 5 million leap year babies in the world, and like any quadrennial event, his birthday isn’t just another day — it’s a production.
“It’s an election year and unless I have a party, they can’t have the election — that’s the way it goes,” Goodkin jokes. “Those are the rules. I do it every four years and I do it with a bang.”
Goodkin was born on February 29, 1936. Since his first leap year birthday, which was documented in full detail by the local newspaper, Goodkin and his family have made it a point to go hard on the party planning. The significance of the rare birth date isn’t lost on the man who decided that this year’s event (which he’s been planning since September) will feature everything from a fancy dinner for dozens of his closest friends to M&Ms bearing his likeness and the big date. “I’m going to have 40 people eating me,” he says.
If Goodkin’s excitement seems overstated then you’re not a leap year baby.
Every four years, an extra day is added to the Gregorian calendar to synchronize it with the solar year. In a leap year, the extra day is added at the end of February, giving it 29 days instead of 28. The extra day is called a leap day, or an intercalary day. The chances of being born on this day are one in 1,461.
Party of the century
One of the guests Goodkin would like to see at his party is Sunrise, Florida, resident Daisy Belle Ward, known by her family as “Big Daisy.” The matriarch was born on February 29, 1916, and is believed to be the oldest-living Leaper in the state and possibly the nation, according to her children.
Ward's family is marking her 25th leap year birthday with a weekend-long celebration in which she'll be honored by city officials, see a gospel performance led by recording artist Dottie Peoples and attend an all-white gala, where she'll be presented with the Centennial Certificate issued by President Barack Obama.
"Let the celebration begin! 99 and a half won't do. I've got to make the 100," Big Daisy told her family. She hasn't been shy about making a big deal out of her milestone. Speaking to CNN through her son Clinton Ward, Daisy, who resides in an assisted living facility, "was excited about it and every time we'd come to [visit her] she'd think it was the day," he said.
"The idea about it is this -- we're happy that she reached it. I'm 81 years old, and I would like to reach 100, but I would like to be in the state of mind just like she is."
Ward's family says they've submitted paperwork to have Daisy entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. A representative from Guinness told CNN, "We currently do not have a title holder for the oldest living leap year baby."
St. Thomas native Chloé Rosey was never a big fan of her leap year birthday or the quirks that came with it. "I kind of hated it as a kid just because I didn't have an actual day, and all of my peers were so confused," she said.
Rosey was born in the very last hour of February 29, 1988. She says she's grown to love being a leap year baby, bragging that, "we're forever young."
For her last leap year celebration, Rosey and eight of her best girlfriends flew to Atlanta for a weekend on the town. This year, she's pushing her plans back to late March/early April in time for Carnival in the Virgin Islands. During the in-between years, Rosey celebrates for a week leading up to the big day or simply settles for the weekend. "When do you celebrate your birthday when it doesn't land on a perfect day?"
For Nick Lemmond, also born on February 29, 1988, the perfect day won't involve, say, a big band and 300-person guest list like Goodkin's infamous shebang of 1976. Lemmond says his last leap year birthday was an event, carefully orchestrated by his friends. There were no photos allowed therefore there's no documentation, but it was a good time, he says.
"My friends respect the fact that I only get a birthday every four years. So, it's usually my friends who make a bigger deal about it than I do," he said.
This year, though his friends wanted another banger, Lemmond's taking the reins, opting for something on the sportier side. "I've already let my work know Tuesday I won't be there," he said. "We're going to Top Golf."