The 2019 Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee persevered last weekend through cold temperatures, rain and even some hail.
Despite the unusual weather conditions and low attendance -- approximately 11,000 less than last year -- rides remained open and all events carried on as planned, with some speedy adjustments.
“The fair was a great experience in many ways,” fair CEO Laurie Giannini told the Enterprise on May 20. “I am very proud of my staff and volunteers. They never complained. (They) changed locations of programs when necessary, worked in the cold and rain. I am grateful for a board of directors that works alongside the staff, offers wise (counsel) and can laugh. On behalf of the board of directors I want to thank Calaveras County, how lucky we are to live in a place like this.”
Despite the lower guest turnout, the youth agriculture and mechanics auctions yielded higher revenues than last year, according to Giannini, as enthusiastic buyers squeezed into the barns to support local children. The Junior Livestock Auction on Sunday grossed over $620,000.
During the Round Robin large animal showmanship competition on Saturday, siblings Nancy and Delaney Sullivan won the champion title for 4-H and FFA, respectively.
The International Frog Jump Finals on Sunday were also a sibling affair, with 13-year-old twins Logan and Madison Busch of San Jose winning first and second place.
Logan’s frog, The Webbed One, secured the World Champion title with an 18-feet, 6-inches jump, and Madison’s frog, Jumping Jack Splash, was only inches behind.
The twins told the Enterprise following their win that they had been jumping frogs “since we were born.” Their team, the aptly-named World Champions, produced the world record-holder Rosie the Ribiter, jockeyed by Lee Guidici, who jumped 21 feet, 5-¾ inches in 1986.
According to Frog Jump experts, the 2019 Frog Jump Finals was the first time in history during which twins have both placed.
Luckily, the serendipitous win was captured by a film crew that had been shooting the event for a Netflix documentary series. The production team utilized social media to gather a large audience, and the clouds parted just long enough to complete the frog jump.
The episode, which will likely be released early next year, followed the Foothill Froggers and the Calaveras Frog Jockeys during their preparations and throughout the competition.
“It’s been really fun. They were great. They were really professional,” said Calaveras Frog Jockey Jonathan Kitchell, who has worked with other networks including ESPN.
Kitchell added that the crew was respectful and “didn’t get in our way.”
“(It’s) what we have to do,” said Kitchell’s wife, Laura, who won the World Champion title last year with her frog, Reckless. “The frog jump’s actually dying off. Locals never come out. We’ve got to get them out here.”
Following the Frog Jump Finals, a sizeable crowd gathered on the grassy hill to finish off the fair with a very muddy demolition derby.
This year’s winner was Nathan Holt of Oakdale, in a 1960 Lincoln with a 5.3 LS engine.
“The track was very muddy and soupy but I was able to move easier than most cars since I was heavier and was able (to) get more traction,” Holt told the Enterprise following his win. “Having a good running motor was key in getting (to) the end. Most (of) my competitors got overheated driving in the muddy conditions but I was able to outlast them all (to) get the win.”
According to the TABU Motors team member who has been competing for 13 years, the 2019 Calaveras County Fair Demolition Derby with its 31 entrants had more cars than any other show he’s attended this year, and the audience participation did not disappoint.
“The fan(s) withstood the storm and were awesome all night,” Holt said.