Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Editor's note: Austin Johnson was identified incorrectly in the original published version of this column.
A group of people from all across Northwest Colorado gathered at a local restaurant Monday to share stories and look forward to a very merry un-birthday indeed.
“My friends always used to sing me that song from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ growing up,” said Todd Bellio, of Craig. Bellio, a handsome bearded man who makes his living building timberframe homes, turns 12 Wednesday.
Like others at the long dining table, the anniversary of his birthday only comes around every fourth year, and it always arrives in a year that is divisible by 4. Presidential candidates always are debating when Bellio and his friends celebrate the true anniversary of his birth, and the Olympic Games always take place the summer following his Feb. 29 birthday.
Bellio, along with Tracey Rogalski, of Hayden, Susie Kleman, Will Zupan, Austin Johnson and Charles Toy all are leapers, or leaplings. Call them leap-year babies.
Technically, they only celebrate their birthday every four years when the Gregorian calendar that most of the world follows adds an extra day to the month of February.
As a matter of practice, the leap year kids are prone to celebrating more than one birthday every 12 months — just because it’s so confusing, and they can get away with it.
“I would always celebrate on (Feb.) 28 with my friends and with my family on March 1,” Bellio said.
Leaplings are very special people because they look significantly older than the number in front of their birth anniversary suggests. But other than that, they are just like you and me.
Unless you consider that Toy, who turns 4 Wednesday, went on his first date at the tender age of 3 3/4 and is eager to get his driver’s license at 4.
Of course, Toy, a strapping six-footer, is celebrating 16 years on the planet Wednesday.
So why do we have a leap year? The answer is that it becomes a necessity if we don’t want our calendar years to get all out of whack with the seasons and our favorite holidays throughout a period of many decades.
A leap year, with its extra day in February, allows us to mark the passing of 365 days in three of every four years when, in fact, a solar year is almost 365 days and six hours.
Without accounting for those extra six hours by adding a day to the annual calendar every four years, we’d lose our bearings before long.
A leap year jogs the calendar back in line with other celestial events, as well as our seasons and holidays.
Zupan, Johnson and Toy all are close to reaching a personal milestone this spring — they’re old enough to take the driver’s license exam even though they are only 4 years old. Zupan hopes to pick his license up March 8. Don’t worry, he easily can see over the steering wheel.
Rogalski, who is the general manager of Go Alpine taxi service, turns 13 Wednesday and looks much younger than other women born in 1960. She said this year’s crop of 4-year-olds can look forward to a confusing visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles when they pick up their licenses and the clerk goes to set the renewal date, on their birthday, and informs them there is no Feb. 29 the year their licenses are set to expire.
“I tell them to put any date they want on the license,” Rogalski said with a sly smile.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com