It’s not the only cool event at this year’s Calaveras County Fair, but it is the only event that’s ribbeting and will have you jumping in your seat.
Celebrating its 90th year, the Jumping Frog Jubilee runs today through Sunday in Frogtown at the fair, where anyone of any age can compete with Frog Jockeys from Angels Camp.
Your frog must to be at least four inches from nose to the tip of the behind, or you can rent one at the fair for $5.
But be forewarned, competition will be steep.
“The honorees are the Calaveras Frog Jockeys and its next generation, the Foothill Froggers,” said Jump Start Program manager Bob Lema. “Their teams have been competing for over 30 years and members have won the championship in 2005, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Many of them serve as mentors to the Jump Start Program’s novice frog jockeys.”
The world record has yet to be beat. It was set in 1986 by a frog named “Rosie the Ribeter” by jumper Lee Giudici, who measured at 21 feet, 5¾ inches in a total of three jumps.
Should you beat the world record, you take home a whopping $5,000, but if you come close, the first-place winner will be hopping with $750 in their pocket.
“At the end of each frog jump, we stage the grand finals on Sunday at 3 p.m., where the top 50 frog jumps measured have a jump-off,” said Lema. “The threshold for qualifying for the finals is typically in the 15- to 17-foot range.”
If renting a frog, contestants pay $5 for a frog from the Frog Spa of 450 frogs. Or join a team of six for $75, where your team receives six frogs, a frog box and special training from veteran jumpers.
Lifetime memories will be made at the county fair’s frog jumping contest.
“The experience of jumping a frog stays with kids as they grow up,” Lema said. “We have lots of parents who bring their kids and tell us that they jumped a frog when they were six or 10 or 12 and they want their own kids to have that experience.”
“The Frog Jump is fun and competitive, just eccentric enough, and with educational value for the important role that frogs have in acting as monitors of our environment,” he added.
Age does not play a factor in winning the competition.
“We’ve had a four-year-old win, and jumped his frog all by himself,” said Lema.
If it’s your first time jumping a frog, Lema said there’s a fun “How to Jump a Frog” video at frogtown.org to watch.
One tip includes making sure you don’t jump your pet frog.
“Frogs jump to escape. In the wild, frogs jump to escape a hawk or coyote coming after them, or to pursue a meal,” explained Lema. “Frogs cannot be trained to jump. The more training, the less distance the frog will jump, and too much contact with people makes the frogs complacent.”
In addition to the Jumping Frog Jubilee, the county fair features a classic destruction derby, country-western concert, rodeo events, robotics competition, scholarship pageant, wine judging and tasting, fair food, exhibits, livestock, a carnival and more.
Most important — all frogs are handled with care during the fair — to include a Frog Welfare Policy manual that details how the frogs are gathered, handled at the event and kept in the Frog Spa.
“The policy addresses DFW and ASPCA recommendations,” said Lema. “The frogs are the most important part of our event, and are treated very well. We intervene when any member of the general public is not handling the frogs according to our policy.”
“Typically there are no injuries, but frogs are aggressive creatures and sometimes get into spats with each other about dominance,” he added. “We feed them live crickets. Our 450 rental frogs are jumped typically once a day, so they can rest, eat crickets, and listen to classical music at night in the Frog Spa.”
At the end of the event, Lema said the rental frogs are returned to those who gathered them, in order to return them to their natural habitat.
For more information, visit frogtown.org.