BOYD: Budget cuts spare Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee

May 15, 2013 

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee hops into action today.

Mark Twain's first published story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was read with amusement nationwide after being printed in the New York Saturday Press in 1865. The story's main character, Jim Smiley, arrived in Angels Camp during the Gold Rush and was described as "the most curious man about, always betting on anything that turned up." Smiley said his frog, Dan'l Webster, "can outjump any frog in Calaveras County."

Beginning today, up to 2,000 frogs and their jockeys will begin competing at the county fairgrounds, also known as Frogtown, to determine who can make the same claim made by Jim Smiley many years ago. On Sunday afternoon, the top 50 jumpers will be at the main stage to compete in the International Frog Jump Grand Finals. The winning jumper will have its name, its jockey's name and length of the jump, placed on a bronze plaque on the sidewalk of downtown Angels Camp along the Hop of Fame.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, in its 86th year, is one of the longest-running events in the state. One of the big stories this year is about the Friends of the Fair volunteers who are dedicated to improving the infrastructure and the marketability of the fairgrounds. While the Friends of the Fair are working on infrastructure, the 39th District Agricultural Association manages the fair's operations. Working together as a team, they are living up to their slogan of "bringing the fair back to the community and the community back to the fair."

Funding cuts in Sacramento for fairgrounds statewide may have been a blessing in disguise. Fair Manager and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Giannini said, "People embraced the loss of funds from the state and it has empowered our community. The Friends of the Fair is an incredible volunteer team of skilled workers that love the fair and love the community." She added, "Last year's fair was the best year financially in 10 years."

Besides the frog jump, another main attraction is the junior livestock program, which Friends of the Fair President Firman Brown called the best in the state. Junior Livestock Committee Chairman Ryan Sullivan said he represents "the biggest single youth organization in the county." This year's fair will have more than 400 youths and nearly 800 animals taking part.

California Carnival Co. will provide the amusement rides, highlighted by $1 million in LED lighting that company President Kevin Tate said "not only reduces the carbon footprint of operations but also reduces maintenance costs and puts out a phenomenal light show."

This year's theme is "Country Roots and Cowboy Boots." Other featured events are the Miss Calaveras Scholarship Pageant, Free Style Moto X, the Saddle Queen competition, the Junior Livestock Auction, the Quilts of Honor presentation, the Friends of the Fair $10,000 raffle and the Destruction Derby.

Every year, residents from the foothills and beyond come together in Frogtown to celebrate our past, to enjoy the present and to welcome the future. Frogtown will be hopping this weekend and it's the place to be if you want to take part in good old-fashioned family fun in the middle of gold country.

For more information: www.frogtown.org.

Boyd lives in Arnold and works as an educator and property manager. Send questions or comments to columns@modbee.com.

Marc Boyd

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