Bedford woman takes special trip to celebrate her Leap Day birthday

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By Tom Wilmoth

On Friday Alicia McClure had her eighth birthday.

But don't let her students at Staunton River High School say they're older than her. They've simply had more birthdays.

McClure was born on Feb. 29, 1976, in Rockford, Ill. She celebrated her birthday last week by going to New York City to be part of a group of people born on Leap Day that made up the audience of the Martha Stewart Show. The show was actually taped on Tuesday and aired Friday.

She found out about the show through the Web site www.leapzine.com, a site that serves as a national registry for Leap Day babies. She is one of more than 3,000 Leap Dayers from all over the world registered at the site.

"They keep track of large parties, or anything like that going on," McClure said of the Web site. "I was just checking out their site to see if anything was going on."

That's where she saw the Martha Stewart Show was filling her audience for the the taping of the Feb. 29 show with Leap Day babies. She convinced her sister, Teal, to go with her and the trip was set.

"It was exciting," McClure said of attending the show. "I've never been to New York before in my entire life."

By finding round-trip tickets for just $70 and staying outside the city, the trip was affordable, as well. They flew up late Monday night and the show was taped Tuesday. She was back in town Wednesday afternoon.

In all, some 164 Leap Day babies made up the show's studio audience. Her sister wasn't allowed into the taping ? only Leap Dayers were let in. McClure had to arrive almost two hours before the taping began. Seven segments made up the day's show. Frogs were the theme.

"I've never been to anything like that before," McClure said, admitting she doesn't regularly watch the show. She found it ironic that in one segment Martha was shown visiting a restaurant and eating frog legs while the next segment focused on the conservation of frogs and toads.

There wasn't a lot of interaction between the audience and Martha Stewart. She did take questions for a few minutes after the show was finished.

All of the audience wore green frog tags and they had to write what birthday it was for them on the tag. McClure said there were quite a few more men than usual in the show's audience and several children. The audience included a mother and daughter who were both born on Feb. 29 at the same time ? they were featured on the show ? along with a woman who was the first person in her town to be born on Leap Day.

Because the trip was short, McClure and her sister didn't have a lot of opportunity to visit the other sites of New York city. They did take time to go to Brooklyn to visit a cousin for dinner.

Those in the show's audience were given a birthday gift from the show ? a digital frame and book. But no birthday cake.

"I don't need to do Martha again, but I definitely need to do New York again," McClure said of the trip.

McClure did take lots of pictures, which she plans to share with her ninth grade physical education and health students at SRHS. "They knew I was going and were excited for me to go. I'm excited to come back and tell them all about it."

McClure, who has been at SRHS for three years, also works as an athletic trainer at the school. With a one-week break between the end of winter sports and the beginning of the spring season, she was able to get away for the trip. "I couldn't have done it any other week," she said. "It was perfect timing."

For McClure, the best part of the trip was being around so many people who are part of the fraternity of Leap Day babies. She made several friends during the taping. "I took home about five or six email addresses," she said. "We took lots and lots of pictures and plan on exchanging them with each other."

On the three years when Feb. 29 isn't on the calendar, McClure celebrates her birthday on Feb. 28. She said it wasn't until the second grade that she realized her birthday was different from others. She said her parents say that when she was little she used to tell people since she didn't have a birthday they didn't celebrate it, so that they would feel sorry for her. "I always get more birthday cards on Leap Year than I do on the other years," she said of people remembering.

There are some adjustments she must make because of being born on Feb. 29. On some paperwork, she needs to list her birthday as Feb. 28 because computers won't recognize the date. "Other than that, it's fun," she said. "I enjoy the uniqueness of it."

McClure said there's an entire clothing line dedicated to Leap Day babies. "It's like a whole little society," McClure said. Prior to her trip to New York, she'd only met a handful of people born on Feb. 29. In all, there are some 200,000 people in the United States born on Leap Day, four million worldwide.

It was a fraternity that she almost didn't make. McClure's doctor had set her due date as March 1; he didn't take into account Leap Day. She was born at 11:46 p.m., with 14 minutes to spare. She was born during a natural disaster in Illinois and at the time her Dad was the Civil Service director. A story in the local paper about the disaster mentioned that her Dad was trying to manage the emergency evacuations while his daughter was being born. But there wasn't any mention in the story that she was born on Leap Day. "My Mom didn't want a Leap Year baby," she said.

As for this past Friday's birthday celebration, McClure planned to have dinner with her family at Peaks of Otter and then spend time with friends.