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Forever young
'Leapers' relate how they deal with not having yearly birthday
By Mary Jekielek Insprucker | Daily Herald Correspondent

As a "Leapster," the birthday for Dolores Winkels of Hanover Park never made it on the computer-generate birthday list at work. "No cupcake for me!" she quipped.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Henry Sobotka will celebrate his "12th" birthday this year. He's actually 48.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Dave Smith of Lake Zurich will officially be 11 years old.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Reed Oliff alsowill be 11, in leap years that is.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/27/2008 12:16 AM | Updated: 2/27/2008 9:10 AM

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The year 2008 has seen more people go green, a campaign for the first African-American or woman to head the U.S., and Ryan Newman win the Daytona 500. However, the real mystique of 2008 is that it is a leap year.

During a leap year, February has 29, instead of 28 days. This occurs every four years, which allows the calendar year to synchronize with the solar year, which is the time it takes the Earth to complete its orbit around the sun. Non- leap years are called common years.

Some famous Leapers, or Leaplings, as those who have their birthday on Feb. 29 are sometimes called, include Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Lousma, and Antonio Sabato Jr.

The Chicago area has its share of local Leapers, and here's their take on the experience.


Q. The positives …

Oliff: Most everybody remembers your birthday when Feb. 29th rolls around since it rolls around every 1,461 days.

Sobotka: I still get children's rates at the barbershop!

Smith: My parents and I, as 'Baby Boy Smith,' were in the newspaper because I was the first baby born that 29th in Gary, Ind.

Q. The negatives …

Sobotka: Growing up, my parents only threw birthday parties with my friends every four years and all the other years were "family" parties. We all know how much fun those are.

Winkels: Can't take advantage of "free on your birthday" offers every year.

Smith: I don't complain about not having birthdays but I have been known to complain when I end up doing something un-fun on an actual Feb. 29.

Q. Do you ever get upset being called a leap year baby?

Oliff: As a child, I took some harassment for it. But as an adult, it carries some charm, some uniqueness.

Sobotka: Not really. Although it seems that once people find out that I'm a leap-year baby, they say, 'Oh, now this all makes sense!'

Q. Do you milk it?

Oliff: As an adult, I became wise. On non-leap years, I milk the situation by celebrating my birthday on the last day of February. I then wake up on March 1st and celebrate again since that would have been February 29th had it been a leap year.

Q. What has been your most unique experience as a result of being born Feb. 29?

Smith: I turned 10 the same year as my daughter, and I will turn 11 this year a few weeks before my son turns 11.

Oliff: There are really three: A) turning 8 when my son was 8, B)turning 9 when my daughter was 9, and C)flying my good friends to Las Vegas to celebrate my 10th birthday.

Q. The 21st birthday is a biggie. How did things work out for you on your 21st?

Smith: I tried to buy alcohol on Feb. 28 and there was no 29 that year. But since I hadn't officially turned 21, I was refused.

Sobotka: Great, I got to celebrate on the 27th, 28th and March 1st because the bouncers were too confused to argue with me!

Q. Which is a better celebration, non-leap years, or leap years?

Smith: Leap years because having to wait four years makes the day seem more special.

Oliff: I enjoy the leap years since I now try to plan special trips on February 29th. This leap year, I am cycling with some racing teammates in Tucson.

Q.: Technical difficulties?

Winkels: The computer generated birthday list at work would always omit my birth date. No cupcake for me!

Q.: Any questioning issues with your ID?

Winkels: A teenager at Blockbuster refused to list 2/29 as a real birth date when I was applying for a card. I picked another date -- made her so happy!

Sobotka: Ours is the only driver's license that doesn't always expire on our birthday. On non-leap-years, it expires on the 28th.