If it’s May, the frogs are restless, the steers and hogs are growing and the corndog batter’s ready. The third weekend of May is always time for the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. The 2019 event is staged from May 16 to 19 at Frogtown, off of Highway 49, south of Angels Camp.
The Calaveras County Fair has been staged since 1893, says Frogtown.org, the website for the fair. After Mark Twain published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the city of Angels Camp held what is considered the first “modern” Frog Jump in 1928 to celebrate the paving of its streets. The amphibians officially joined the county fair in the 1930s.
Guests at the Calaveras County Fair can “rent” frogs and jump them during the first three days of the fair. The frogs are placed on “lily pads” and the first three jumps are measured from the center point of the starting pad. Jockeys hope their leapers will jump far enough to land in the International Frog Jump Grand Finals on Sunday afternoon, when the top 50 preliminary jumps advance in the contest. If a frog out-jumps the world record of 21 feet, 5.75 inches – set by Rosie the Ribeter and late jockey Lee Guidici in 1986 – during the Grand Finals, the jockey wins $5,000.
“I think this might be the year we break the record,” said Frogtown CEO Laurie Giannini.
To get the fair going, five young equestriennes hop into their saddles to compete for the 2019 Saddle Queen crown on May 16. They are judged on horsemanship, riding patterns, the queen wave, a flag run, a horsemanship interview, a written test and they each give a speech. The winner gets a $1,000 scholarship, the first runner up receives $600 and the second runner up gets $400.
The Miss Calaveras Scholarship Pageant is the big event on May 16. The pageant’s scholarship amounts were increased this year, so Miss Calaveras 2019 gets a $3,000 scholarship, the first princess receives $2,000 and the second princess receives $1,000. Seven young women are set to compete in personal interview, fitness, talent and an evening gown promenade in the event hosted this year by Miss California 2018, MacKenzie Freed, at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage.
There is lots of entertainment presented throughout all four days of the Calaveras County Fair. Giannini said the 39th District Agricultural Association Board of Directors (which presents the fair) decided that even more excitement for children should be part of the event.
“We want our families to have a lot to do and see,” Giannini said. “This year our family entertainment includes Capt. Jack Spareribs, Hillbilly Silly Science Show, Doctor Solar, Cowgirl tricks, Fables of the West, Sterling the Bubble Man, Something Ridiculous and Totally Twisted Balloons.”
Giannini is also keen to see a new place at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds where fairgoers can relax and learn.
“I am very excited about the new demonstration kitchen,” she said. “Built by staff member Todd Fischer, it will feature a number of chefs. However, I am most excited to have the ‘Farm Girl Chef’ as part of our lineup. Elisabeth Watkins is from Linden. She is a sixth generation farmer and has a passion for cooking with locally grown crops. She is a senior in high school and active in both 4-H and FAA. She won ‘Junior Chopped’ and does regional TV spots.”
More youth activities include the Ag Mechanics Auction, which has grown a lot in just a few years. Projects created by high school students across the county are sold at the auction.
“The Ag Mechanics Auction will have more items than ever,” Giannini said. “Calaveras High School has turned in more than 100 entry forms.”
And don’t think youngsters aren’t looking forward to all the action down at the livestock barns.
“There are 50 younger children showing mini goats this year,” Giannini said. “All of our animal exhibits have increased in numbers” in 2019.
The fair headliner this year is Shooter Jennings, son of legendary country music star Waylon Jennings. He performs on the Main Stage at 8 p.m. May 17.
“Shooter Jennings has created buzz,” Giannini said. “His style is real raw and authentic.”
She also looks forward to the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Associ-ation Rodeo on May 18.
“The CCPRA Rodeo will feature a salute to first responders,” Giannini said. “Organized by fair Director Marybeth Ospital and volunteer Jeremy Leonard, it proves to be a very moving tribute to the folks on our front lines.”
The Demolition Derby closes the action in the Frogtown Arena on May 19, when the hillside that leads to the arena is always filled with residents and visitors cheering on their favorite entries.
Before the Frogtown gates open on May 16, the Frog Jump Youth Parade serves as an unofficially official opener to the county fair. Presented by Soroptimist International of Calaveras County, the parade makes its way through downtown Angels Camp (Highway 49) at 10 a.m. Parade attendees then head to the fairgrounds to enjoy the first day of the county fair.