2008-08-09 / Front Page

JUMP FOR JOY

Frog jumping gains popularity at Hartford Fair
Photos & Story by Scott Rawdon

Ashley Smith was "volunteered" for frog chasing duty during the Hartford Fair's frog jumping competition. Ashley Smith was "volunteered" for frog chasing duty during the Hartford Fair's frog jumping competition. CROTON- A good frog is hard to find. Lindsey Grimm, education and information specialist with the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District, spent much of Monday morning fishing frogs from the ponds and swamps around the Hartford fairgrounds. She looked for frogs appearing athletic enough to participate in the district's frog jumping contest at the Hartford Fair that afternoon. Only in its second year, the contest is quickly becoming one of the fair's more popular events, and contestants signed up in droves. "We encourage people to bring their own frogs," said Grimm. There's no special training or feeding involved; all you need is an enthusiastic frog with strong legs.

Each contestant has a minute or two to convince his or her frog to jump three times. The frog traveling the furthest distance within three jumps is the winner. The catch is there's no contact allowed. Contestants may yell, scream, or even blow on the frog, but touching results in instant disqualification. Sometimes the frogs will leap forward, like young contestant Max Miller's frog, which jumped 52 inches and qualified Miller as the winner of the peewee category Monday afternoon. But, just as often a contestant's frog will sit motionless, staring obliviously.

Most agree that the sport of frog jumping originated with classic author Mark Twain's short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which chronicles Jim Smiley who, as a betting man, trains his frog, Dan'l Webster, to take on competitors. To this day, frog jumping is the biggest attraction at the Calaveras County Fairground-also known as Frogtown-between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

It's gaining popularity at the Hartford Fairground, too, where winners of Monday's event were to advance to the "Super Jump" Friday. The winner of the Super Jump receives a tall trophy adorned with a golden frog.

Ashley Smith, a 4-H member, had what some may consider the unenviable job of corralling each frog after its event and returning the frog to its container. When asked how she became the frog "corraller," Smith pointed to a friend standing near to her and said, "She volunteered me; she's good at doing that."

The Hartford Fair, in Croton, Ohio near Johnstown, runs through Saturday, Aug. 9, and features the popular Rough Truck contest, 7:30 p.m. Friday night.

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