Scenes from Suwanee: North Gwinnett sophomore to celebrate 4th birthday

North Gwinnett sophomore to celebrate 4th birthday

Birthdays are extra special for Katie McKinstry. While most people have a birthday every year, the North Gwinnett sophomore only gets to celebrate her "real" birthday every four years. She's a leap year baby -- her birthday falling on Feb. 29.

But the 15-year-old makes the most of her special day. Every four years, Katie and her family travel to Chattanooga, Tenn., and stay at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a hotel that has train cars for rooms. Katie said the city has a special meaning to her and her dad, Lee.

"Chattanooga is where I was born," Katie said. "It was a huge deal when I was born for my dad because there was a snowstorm. So when I was really little he decided every year that on my birthday, since it was such a special day, we would go there."

But the McKinstry family doesn't just go and spend the night and have a quiet evening at the hotel. They go to a restaurant that has singing waitresses and a band and they all sing happy birthday to Katie. This year, Katie is performing at the restaurant. She said she's going to sing Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" because it's a favorite song of her grandmother, whom she's very close to.

But this won't be her first time performing because Katie is the lead singer of a band she started with her brother, Mac. She also plays the piano and guitar, careful to point out that playing piano is much easier. But being a part of North Gwinnett's chorus is her favorite thing.

"I've been singing in school choirs since fourth grade and I love it so much," Katie said. "I love just singing with a bunch of people. We're all like a huge family and we all know each other and we're all friends."

After high school, Katie said she wants to go to college and study journalism and work for a newspaper. For now, she's enjoying her time at North Gwinnett.

"I love it so much better than elementary and middle school," Katie said. "I don't think I'd ever want to go to another school just because the campus is awesome and the teachers are awesome. My history teacher is amazing and I love him."

If you're wondering when Katie celebrates her birthday on non-leap years, she said either Feb. 28 or March 1 -- whichever falls closest to the weekend. But this year she's more than happy to celebrate on a Wednesday because it's the "actual" day.

"My actual birthday is really, really important to me," Katie said. "It's probably the most important thing that happens to me. It's my favorite day ever."

Tori Boone, who lives in Suwanee, is a copy editor for the Daily Post. Email her at tori.boone@gwinnettdailypost.com.