This is their year: Family with three leap-year birthdays plans big blowout

Three woman sit on a couch together.
Family members Antonia Stevens, Elizabeth Stevens and Tonya Berzat will be celebrating their leap-year birthdays together. Antonia will be turning 40, or 10 in leap years; Elizabeth will be 84, or 21 in leap years; and Tonya will be 52, or 13 in leap years.
Carina Lofgren for MPR News

In leap years, Elizabeth Stevens is turning 21. Do a little math and you’ll realize that she’s more than a few years past the legal drinking age.

“I’m 84 and I thought it would be nice to get my niece and my granddaughter together and we celebrate this one event together,” she said.

A few days before their big party, the women gathered in Elizabeth's south Minneapolis apartment.

Her granddaughter, Antonia Stevens, is going to be 40 on Saturday — or 10 in leap years.

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Antonia, who goes by Toni, said when she was growing up her parents used to debate the best day to celebrate her non-leap-year birthday.

“My dad would be like, ‘She was born in February — her birthday should be Feb. 28,’” she said. “And my mom would say, ‘She wasn’t born on the 28th. She was born on the day after the 28th. So, her birthday should be March 1.’”

Toni wound up with both.

“So, I always had two birthday celebrations growing up,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Three women hug.
Elizabeth Stevens (right) hugs her granddaughter, Antonia Stevens, (left) and niece Tonya Berzat, (center) during their leap-year birthday celebration in 2012.
Courtesy of Derrick Stevens

Elizabeth's niece, Tonya Berzat, said she can’t remember when she celebrated her non-leap-year birthdays as a child. But as she got older, friends and family would send her birthday greetings on both the 28th and the 1st.

“Which I appreciate because you get two days worth of phone calls for your birthday," she said.

Tonya is turning 52 on Saturday — or 13 in leap years. She has celebrated birthdays with her aunt in the past at Old Country Buffet. This year will be different.

"I know this will be the first time we’ve celebrated together on this scale on this level that we’re doing this year,” she said.

Currently, more than 100 people are expected to join the party at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. That will include a lot of family members. Elizabeth is a mother of six, grandmother of 20 and the great-grandmother of 16. Three of her children have passed away over the last three years. However, the majority of her extended family will be part of the celebration.

A big group of people pose for a photo in a room.
Elizabeth Stevens is surrounded by some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren during a leap-year birthday celebration in 2012.
Courtesy of Derrick Stevens

Elizabeth’s granddaughter Toni said her guest list includes 20 of her closest friends.

“It’s like this whole big, black-tie event,” she said. “Red carpet. People dressed up to the nines — like they’re going to the Oscars. It’s just going to be beautiful."

Having multiple family members with leap-year birthdays is unusual, but not unheard of. According to the Guinness World Records, three siblings in a Norwegian family all have leap-year birthdays. Guinness said the odds of that occurring with siblings are 1 in 3 billion.

Tonya said the Stevens family looked into getting into the record book. They were outnumbered by an extended family in Great Britain which had six leap-year birthdays.

When asked how it could be that three people in the same family could share such an infrequent birthday, Elizabeth gave a hearty laugh and said it’s just a matter of the birds and the bees and the right timing.

She said her family’s celebration is an opportunity to get everyone together and enjoy the occasion.

“This year is our year. And who knows what next year’s going to be?” she said. “For us all to be together to celebrate this year, it means a lot to me.”