Wait…Your County Does What?!?
By Courtney Teicheira, Guest Blogger and 2013 Calaveras Visitors Bureau Travel Writing Scholarship Winner
Here in Calaveras County we jump frogs. Yes, the slimy little creature that potentially turns into a prince if you kiss it. It’s actually a very serious business, so serious that a county fair and competition have been dedicated to jumping frogs. Yes, I said COMPETITION, where people actually compete in the International Frog Jump Grand Finals to see whose frog can jump the farthest. There’s even a world record for it, in all honesty, this is serious business. This competition takes place the third weekend in May each year, and is the summation of a four day long county fair. When I first heard about it I had no idea why anyone would want to jump a frog, let alone make a competition and a county fair out of it. But because of the cunning writing skills of Mark Twain, the world now knows people jump frogs for fun and make records just for it.
We moved to the area in 2005, and the following year was my first time going to the fair. Every year we go back, and even without the frog jump, the county fair can stand alone just by itself. As a child going to the fair, I had a blast going to the carnival area, getting the opportunity to hang out with my friends outside of school, doing something really fun. We would decide who was the bravest by going on the scariest rides, or just sitting around laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Today, the fair is still enjoyable to teens and adults alike. I know I could easily spend a day with my friends just going through the exhibits, shopping around at all the business booths and then going on rides. There is always something to do, and definitely no shortcomings in entertainment for sure!
The fair is also a very integral part of the community, since many youth auction off livestock and work in the 4-H program. Once mid-January rolls around, kids are getting their animals prepped and ready for fair. May soon comes and quickly becomes such a busy time of the year that most students take the Wednesday before fair off in order to get everything ready for auctions and end up staying at the fairgrounds during the entire fair. Unlike most areas with their county fairs, the local school districts recognize the fair and the efforts students put forward in working it that the school district gives students Thursday and Friday off from school. The fair board even allows high school juniors and seniors to help in running the fair, learning business and other important skills of use later in life. The community even steps forward to purchase the animals, with many local groceries buying the livestock for their own butcher shops. Many of my friends today use the money they raise in the auctions to fund their college educations, and I see the effort the community puts forth as a little gift.
My favorite part of the fair though would definitely be the pageants. Of course, there’s the annual Miss Calaveras Scholarship Pageant, but there’s also a Saddle Queen Pageant, more of a country girl type of thing. The Saddle Queen Pageant though, is really different. Most of the competition takes place using a horse, and many girls have a deep connection with their horses. I saw first-hand last year as one of my friends entered the Saddle Queen Pageant. All of my friends came to support her, and I saw how much more down and dirty work there is involved in the competition than the other pageant, Miss Calaveras. Watching her complete each of the tasks, I could see how many hours of work she put in training with her horse to get the routines right. Working just by yourself to learn routines is quite difficult, but adding a horse into the mix is even more difficult and time consuming. But by the end of the competition, I saw just how much each contestant enjoyed herself and how much they liked competing in the pageant. Even though my friend was first runner-up, I could tell she was extremely pleased with how well she did.
No matter how silly a fair about jumping frogs may sound, the Calaveras County Frog Jump and Jubilee is so unique and different that I love going year after year, and can’t wait for it to come!
The 2013 Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee recently took place. If you missed the festivities, be sure to mark your calendar for next year. This family-friendly event happens annually the third weekend in May. Plenty of time to find your frog!
*Photos Courtesy of Courtney Teichiera and the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee