Every town craves a little positive attention, maybe create a little local pride, distinguish itself from its neighbors and bring in a few tourist dollars if it’s particularly lucky. However the universe of remarkable events that puts a place on the map remains pretty limited. What can a small town do when nobody of international fame ever lived there and no enormous historical event ever happened there?
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Anthony is actually two distinct town that bleed into each other. The Texas version has about 4,000 residents and incorporated in 1952. The New Mexico version is considerably smaller but has about twice the residents. It didn’t incorporated as a municipality until July 2010 so it’s one of the newest towns in the United States. I should extend my congratulations to the fine people of Anthony, NM, and I do, but that’s not my primary purpose today.
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It’s almost impossible to see the border and differentiate the two towns along Main Street. The sign in the foreground marks an invisible line. Rosa’s Western Wear and Casa de Musica (another example of confusion not fusion?) falls on the New Mexico side of the boundary and the night club falls on the Texas side. The wall between them straddles the line of this self-proclaimed "best little town in two states."
That would be enough right there to attract a geo-oddity freak such as myself. However, it’s probably insufficient to convince the average American tourist to detour towards Anthony and spread the wealth.
Anthony’s history is a bit unclear. The area was known originally as Halfway House because of its location halfway between Las Cruces, NM, and El Paso, TX (thus revealing how I discovered this place). The Texas State Historical Society speculates that it may have become Anthony sometime after a local resident built a chapel to St. Anthony of Padua in the late 19th Century. That’s fascinating background, but again, it’s hardly a major tourist draw.
The Anthony Chamber of Commerce came up with a better idea.
One of their members, Mary Ann Brown, convinced the Chamber to proclaim Anthony the “Leap Year Capital of the World” in 1988. They’ve grabbed a spot on the Intertubes so it must be true. Isn’t that how it works? Nobody has ever challenged them so they own the crown through force of will and squatters rights for now. They sponsor a parade, a festival, sports tournaments, political proclamations, and various other celebrations all centered on Anthony once every four years on leap year day, February 29. It generates a surprising amount of press coverage and attention.
Why select leap year day? Well, that’s Mary Ann Brown’s birthday of course. In an absolutely brilliant move, Ms. Brown convinced an entire town to throw a giant party on her very unusual birth date. Leap babies of all ages from around the nation and from a few foreign countries flock to Anthony on this special day. Their leap year birthday club now has more than four hundred members. Ms. Brown gets a party, local businesses find customers, the town makes a name for itself, and everyone leaves happy.
I probably should have waited until 2012 to post this article, but honestly, I would have forgotten it by then. I was so excited when I discovered it that I had to share it now.