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Angels Camp, Calif.
back on track

First-of-its-kind BMX event recreates 40-year-old racetrack at Frogtown

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Onlookers watch as riders make their way down the track from the uphill starting line on Saturday, Oct. 23.

A first-of-its-kind sporting event took place at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp over the weekend.

Frogtown Classic BMX Days brought spectators and BMX riders from all over the country, including dozens of celebrated professional athletes and Hall of Famers.

The three-day festival gave organizer Todd Huffman and friends a chance to celebrate BMX and ride together again—on the same dirt track they raced in Angels Camp over 40 years ago.

The event was created by organizer Todd Huffman, formerly of Placerville, who raced on the Frogtown track that was located at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Huffman, who now lives in Southern California, spent decades of his life working in the BMX industry and also produces and directs documentary films and commercials.

BMX stands for “bicycle motocross,” which is a sport that gained popularity in the U.S. during the 1970s, especially in Southern California. The sport was popular with youth who raced bicycles on homemade dirt tracks, emulating the similar sport of motocross, where athletes race small, lightweight motorized bikes, also known as “dirt bikes.”

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Riders young and old enjoyed riding on the vintage downhill track on Saturday.

The sport became increasingly popular, especially after the 1971 motocross documentary “On Any Sunday” inspired kids across the country to take up BMX riding—a more affordable and safer alternative to motocross.

BMX even made its way to Calaveras County.

The first Frogtown BMX race was held in 1977 and took place at the fairgrounds’ horse arena, according to the Frogtown Classic BMX Days website.

The original event was organized by Johnny Valdez, who ran BMX events in Central and Northern California as president of United Bicycle Racers (UBR), a BMX sanctioning body.

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 Young athletes line up, waiting for their turn to ride.

The following year in 1978, the Frogtown race was moved to an open field, still on fairgrounds property, where the famed downhill dirt track was created and utilized for countless motos until 1982.

Now, over forty decades later, BMX is an officially recognized Olympic sport with fans of all ages. And, thanks to Huffman and Valdez, BMX riders of all ages and skill levels have again descended on Frogtown to compete.

It started with Huffman thinking about throwing a get-together of sorts for his old BMX friends. While talking about this idea, Huffman’s longtime friend Johnny Valdez informed him that the original Frogtown track was still there in Angels Camp after all this time, now an empty field used for overflow parking during the County Fair.

Huffman’s wheels started spinning. He dreamed up a “multi-day, classic, vintage BMX festival celebrating the history and action of BMX,” and it all started with the famous UBR downhill track, still sitting somewhat intact on the Angels Camp fairgrounds.

Huffman contacted Fairgrounds CEO Laurie Giannini in the spring of 2021, and after the event was granted approval, plans for this first-of-its-kind BMX event got rolling.

Initial plans were for a three-day event with racing on multiple days, a bike show, swap meet, camping, and even a meet-and-greet with BMX “legends.”

As the event got closer, organizers had to adjust plans to accommodate for less-than-optimal weather. With an all-dirt downhill track, several days of rain is not ideal.

Luckily, the weather broke long enough to hold all racing competitions on Saturday, Oct. 23, and while the fairground was a little muddy in some spots, the track—which had been recreated as a near replica of the original—held up.

Despite the slight setbacks, attendees, sponsors, and organizers were all smiles on Saturday.

Huffman, called the event “as much a reunion for all of us as a modern competition,” adding, “it’s more about the bikes and getting together” than just a sporting event.

Many of the participants Saturday were former BMX professionals or still working in the industry.

Others had local ties, like toddler “Rattlesnake Jake” whose family is from Murphys.

Before the races began, 3-year-old Jake excitedly proclaimed that he was going to “smoke those guys!” as his family gathered around, his mom adjusting his helmet and protective gear. With an American flag streaming from the back of his jacket, little Jake made good on his promise, coming out as a winner in the Strider, or “balance bike,” category.

Another crowd favorite in the Strider category was toddler Bella, aka Isabella Elliott, called “the cutest little Strider bug out there” by announcer and BMX star Mike “Redbone” Redman, who is also Bella’s grandpa.

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Three-year-old “Rattlesnake Jake” tells a cameraman he’s number one after winning in the balance bike category.

Bella, like many of the young racers, was one of multiple siblings participating in the day’s competitions.

More well-known siblings in attendance Saturday were the Patterson brothers, Brian and Brent, who are both in the BMX Hall of Fame.

Other BMX celebrities included another Hall of Famer Toby Henderson, who is President of BOX Components and Co-founder of American BMX Company. Henderson was also integral to the recent return of BMX Action Magazine, which has been out of print for 30 years.

According to Henderson, the magazine was critical to the development of BMX as a sport, and he said, “all of the guys here are here because of that.”

The new version of the magazine will be a little different, with 501(c)(3) status and an online-only format. Bmxaction.com reads, “This not-for-profit will be a resource for archival editions of previous magazines, as well as a hub for contemporary BMX news.”

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BMX legend Stanley Robinson smiles as he autographs photos of himself racing on the original Frogtown track.

Other BMX stars and Hall of Fame inductees at the event included Chris “Mad Dog” Moeller, Brad Lackey, Stu Thomsen—whom Huffman called the “Babe Ruth of BMX”—David Clinton, Frank Post, Stanley Robinson, John “Dizz” Hicks, Todd Corbitt, John Crews, Greg Turnage, “The Duke” Dana Duke, Craig Turner, Mark Darcy, Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, and more.

Some riders even donned decades-old tracksuits and jerseys from their BMX heydays to accompany vintage bikes and number plates.

Vendors like ABC, Mongoose, and GT BMX displayed vintage-inspired and vintage replica bike frames, with all new technology making them “faster, safer, better fit, better material” than their vintage counterparts.

The festival felt more like a party than a sporting event, with one vendor representative calling it “a family gathering.”

BMX legend “The Duke” Dana Duke, who worked as a promoter for Oakley in his youth, commended the solidarity, family atmosphere, and absence of drugs at BMX events like the Frogtown Classic BMX Days.

Duke, who is no longer able to ride, was at the event with his daughter Shyann and spent most of his time tossing a beach ball around with kids and signing autographs, sitting in a chair near the finish line.

Duke was involved in some of the first BMX sporting events and reports that from 1981 to 1999, every Friday night he’d be “on a jet, going to an event.”

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Teri Parker and son Levi, from Modesto, are all smiles after Levi won his race.

“Nothing’s changed, it just feels neat,” said Duke.

Over at the VIP tent, Teri Parker, of Modesto, posed for a picture with her teenage son Levi, who had just won his race. Levi rode a vintage bike that was restored by his father, who used to race himself.

Parker, who was wearing a leather bracelet engraved with the words BMX MOM, admitted “I’ve got eight bicycles in my living room,” as collecting bikes seems to come with the territory.

For people like the Parkers, Huffman, and Duke, BMX isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. That’s why returning to this track where memories were made decades ago is so special.

Huffman hopes to be able to return to Angels Camp next year for the second annual Frogtown Classic BMX Days.

For more information, follow Frogtown Classic BMX Days on Facebook at or visit frogtownclassicbmxdays.com

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Marie-Elena studied creative writing, art, and photography at University of Nebraska at Omaha, graduating with a BA in Studio Art -Visual Media. She moved to California from Nebraska in 2019 and is happy to call Calaveras County her home.

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