SLEEPY EYE (AP) -- When the four of them were toddlers, people would pay a quarter to watch them play at the State Fair. When they were teens, they hardly could go anywhere without folks watching.
Now the Seifert quadruplets, believed to be the first known set born in Minnesota, are about to celebrate their 50th birthday.
It won't be an ordinary birthday party, either. People used to throw an annual celebration for Martha Ann (Marti), Michael Arthur, Marie Dolores and Monica Mae. This year they're not only throwing the party, but they've asked other quads to join them.
Several quadruplet families are expected next Sunday at the Orchid Inn in Sleepy Eye, the Seiferts' hometown. The public is invited, and the family is prepared for about 400 people for an open house from 1 to 4 p.m.
They'll have old photos and posters of several quad families, along with a buggy for four.
''Last August we started talking about what we should do and decided that getting a bunch of quads together for our birthday would be really fun,'' said Marti Andersen, the Seifert quad who lives in Albert Lea.
She has identified 27 sets of quads with Minnesota connections. Of that number, 21 were born in the 1990s. Medical authorities say the numbers of multiple births has soared with the use of fertility drugs.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported 627 quadruplet births for 1998, the most recent year for which figures were available.
Andersen said her own research suggests only 13 quads, including one set in North Dakota, were born in the United States before the Seiferts.
Their births on May 3, 1950, made national news, but it wasn't an easy time for the parents, Dolores Seifert, then 37, and her husband, Arthur, 42, who were expecting triplets. The Seiferts already had six children when the quads arrived.
The quads were born six weeks prematurely and weighed between 2 1/2 and 4 pounds each. They shared two incubators at the hospital in Sleepy Eye until more could be brought in. They didn't go home to the family farm until July.
Fame was instant. The Seiferts got 26,000 letters from around the world, including a few that criticized them for having so many children. The family spent more than their annual income for the hospital bill ($2,760) and to remodel a porch for a nursery and install a furnace ($5,000).
But they got financial help by endorsing milk products and baby food. They also were given an automatic washing machine, which Andersen noted was a big help in those days before disposable diapers.
When they were 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, they became a paid exhibit at the State Fair, with the proceeds earmarked for their education. The quads have no memory of that, but Andersen said last week, ''I think it was really cool, to think that that really happened, that people paid 25 cents to see us.''
Nowadays, Andersen is a school paraprofessional in Albert Lea. Michael farms the home place southeast of Sleepy Eye. Marie Hoffman is a teacher's aide in Worthington. Monica Clayton is a nurse in Colorado.
Their father died in 1982, and their mother is in a nursing home now. Their six older brothers and sisters, who include a set of twins, all are well and living in Minnesota, Andersen said.
Each quad has two children (Andersen has a grandchild, born in 1997), but there have been no multiple births in the family since the quads, she said.
In planning for Sunday's open house, Andersen said, ''I'd talk to the mothers of some of these quads, and I think, 'I wouldn't want to do that' ... We didn't have to do all the work. We just got to enjoy being the quads.''
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