Celebrating 30 Years: Calaveras Frog Jump

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Calaveras Frog Jump right here: record breakers, forming a team, prizes and how to have your very own Frog Jump at your event!

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is coming right up, May 19-22 at Frogtown in Angels Camp. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Rosie the Ribiter’s record setting frog jump of 21 feet, 5 and ¾ inches. We’ll be celebrating her World Record on Kid’s Day, May 19, when frog jumping is free for kids 12 and under (click here for Fair schedule and tickets). Read on to learn about some of our famous local frog jockeys and find out how you too can become part of the Frog Jump legend.

Portrait of Kitchells

L-R: Jon, Laura and Joe Kitchell have been frog jockeys for over three decades. | Jason B Smith

It was 1979, a hot day at the Fair, and it was time to grab a cold drink and catch a little bit of the famous frog jumping competition. Sitting in the audience that day, Angels Camp residents Jon and Laura Kitchell, along with their friend Mike Nash, realized there were no locals competing in the event. They decided the hometown needed some representation, so the following year they went out and caught a handful of bullfrogs – and their team has been competing ever since. Only now it has grown to include younger generations, and the Kitchell name is synonymous around the frog jump stage as the family dynasty to beat.

Rosie the Ribiter

Rosie the Ribiter’s brass plaque on the Frog Hop of Fame

They still don’t hold the record for the longest jump, however – that belongs to Lee Giudici and his frog Rosie the Ribiter, who set the bar at 21 feet 5 and ¾ inches back in 1986. You can find the brass plaque commemorating her historic win along the Frog Hop of Fame, Main Street, Angels Camp.

As we head into May, the waters are warming, frogs are busy feeding and our local frog jockeys are gearing up for the 2016 Frog Jumping Competition. The week before the Fair, they’ll head out under cover of darkness to some of their secret spots with nets and headlamps to catch this year’s group of bullfrog contenders. By the time the week is out, many of the critters will have been returned to the wild, while the most promising amphibian athletes will have their turn on the main stage to make the jump that has become legend. Even though every frog and their jockey are on the stage as individual competitors, the Kitchells are part of a multi-family team for whom this has become annual tradition. “It’s all about the camaraderie and just having fun,” says Jon.

California Bullfrog ready for Frog Jump

California Bullfrog ready for Frog Jump

Novice Frog Jumpers Take Note

This year is your chance to be part of the fun too! The Fair’s Jump Start! program encourages new participants to try their luck at frog jumping. It provides everything your friends, family, coworkers or organization need to compete. Maybe you could challenge Rosie’s World Record!

“We developed Jump Start! because folks watching in the stands have long asked how they can get involved. This program makes it easy. And, we hope it captures the imagination of a new wave of frog jockeys who become just as enthusiastic as our veteran competitors,” says program coordinator Bob Lema.

For a fee of $60 each team receives six frog competitors and can include two to six novice jumpers who receive instructions and coaching from past winners of the iconic event. Jump Start! teams rotate through the preliminary rounds of the competition alongside seasoned frog jockeys – some who’ve been doing it for over 50 years.

The 50 frogs tallying the longest leaps during the four-day event advance to the Grand Finals on Sunday afternoon. Last year, frog jockeys from three Jump Start! teams made it to the Grand Finals, proving frog jockeys in training have as good a chance of victory as any seasoned frog team member.

Joe Kitchell going for the win at a past Frog Jump | File Photo

Joe Kitchell going for the win at a past Frog Jump | File Photo

Jump Start Team Basics for Frog Jump

  • Complete an entry form at the Entry Booth adjacent to the Main Stage. Designate a Team Captain (age 21 and above) and the frog jockeys who will actually jump the frogs. Teams may have from two to six members.
  • Six frogs are provided to each team, as well as a frog box to hold them. You will also name your six frogs so we can record their jumps individually, just like every other team.
  • Each team receives an orientation on frog handling and jumping. Our primary concern is always the welfare of the frogs.
  • Jump Start! teams follow the same rules as the other teams for timing, frog placement and team behavior on the Main Stage.
  • Any frogs qualifying for the Grand Finals from Jump Start! teams will be identified and held over for the Grand Finals, providing the team commits to return for the final competition on Sunday afternoon.
  • The number of Jump Start! teams per day will be set by the availability of the frogs.
  • Designated representatives of the Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee can deny a team jumping for the team’s personal behavior and/or treatment of the frogs.
  • Frog Jumping is a very fluid experience. Weather conditions and other factors may affect the staging of the event. All teams must follow the rules in jumping their frogs.

Sign up early to take advantage of coaching available prior to the Frog Jump. For more information, contact the Fairgrounds at 209-736-2561 or email [email protected] Contact Jump Start! Coordinator Bob Lema at [email protected].

Here’s a short video about the Kitchells and the Frog Jump legacy –

Frog Van

Keep an eye out for the Frogmobile, hitting the road during May | File Photo

Famous Frogs Hit the Road This Month!

The Frogmobile and its entourage of frogs and their handlers will go on tour to local schools in the coming weeks and wind up at the state capitol on May 18 for a friendly frog jumping competition among state legislators and elected officials.  The capitol event is sponsored by Senator Tom Berryhill, who represents District 14, and the winner will advance to the Main Stage finals at Frogtown on May 22.  The Frogmobile is available to rent – so you can have your own frog jumping contest at your own event! Just about the only time it’s not available is during our own Jumping Frog Jubilee. You can get full details on renting the Frogmobile from the www.frogtown.org website. Meanwhile, here’s a list of where it will be stopping in Calaveras County.

Michelson Elementary: April 29, 1:00pm
Mountain Oaks School: May 9, 11:30am
Calaveras Government Center: May 10, 11:30am
Copperopolis Elementary: May 11, 9:30am
Christian Family Learning Center: May 11, 2:00pm
San Andreas Elementary: May 13, 8:00am
West Point Elementary: May 13, 10:30am
State Capitol: May 22

See you at the Fair!

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