Frogtown the place to be during fair weekend
Yes, it’s time for the Calaveras County Fair, but before I get to that four-day fiesta of family, farm animals and frogs, you’ve got to hear about the little theater that could.
In West Point, Lumberjack Day finds throngs along Main Street for the humdinger of a parade that’s part of the daylong festivities on the first Saturday in October. One of the most popular entries in the parade each year is the Lawn Chair Brigade. This gaggle of performers makes its way down the avenue in costumes that usually approximate the yearly theme and each participant totes along a lawn chair. When the music starts, the choreographed routine gets the crowd excited as chairs fan out across the street and frivolity overtakes everyone. The performances are a lot of fun.
The Lawn Chair Brigade is actually a lineup of folks from the Blue Mountain Players, whose theater serves as the announcer’s booth and judges’ stand for the annual parade through town. Once you step inside the 69-seat theater for a show, however, you know you’re someplace special.
The Blue Mountain Players is truly a community theater troupe. Everyone who performs in its shows, sews its costumes or directs productions has a day job, or has perhaps had a successful career and is now retired. Nonetheless, the all-volunteer productions are always a treat, whether it’s a Neil Simon comedy or something a little more dramatic that’s performed.
As with almost all theater troupes, the Blue Mountain Players can only recover so much of their costs through ticket sales. Even the king of the hill in theater, Sonora’s Sierra Repertory Theatre, cannot recoup all of its expenditures with annual ticket sales. So what’s a troupe of playful sorts to do?
If you’re the Blue Mountain Players, you stage a murder mystery dinner! At 6 p.m. Saturday, settle into the West Point Community Hall for a Tex-Mex buffet and then watch your back (well, maybe your neighbor’s!). “Demise of the Down Home Dealers” finds some country music legends in town celebrating; that is, until someone starts pushing up daisies. Directed by Jane Sprouse, the murder mystery encourages attendees to sleuth through the suspects and discover the dastardly doer of none-too-dreamy deeds.
Tickets for the dinner that also features a no-host bar are $25 each at 293-3100 or 293-7979. Proceeds help support future shows at the adorable Blue Mountain Theater.
Now this weekend packs a ton of fun into four days. It’s a long weekend, too, as schoolchildren are out of class for the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee that promises a lot of pop over its four days. Once you’re on the Frogtown grounds, all of the entertainment is included, and there’s a lot of it this year.
Calaveras County residents really stepped up to support the Frog Jump as its finances looked bleak several years ago. With bootstraps pulled taut and sleeves rolled up high, lots of folks have gone above and beyond the call to support the county fair. Sure the corn dogs and carnival rides are something to look forward to, but so is the Junior Livestock Auction, the Miss Calaveras Pageant and the Saddle Queen contest, all of which celebrate our young people. And we haven’t even mentioned the jumping frogs!
I’m told the Miss Calaveras contestants are a truly talented bunch in 2015 and earlier Thursday, you can catch the Saddle Queen contestants turning up the competitive heat in the arena. The day begins with the adorable Frog Jump Youth Parade at 10 a.m. in downtown Angels Camp. It sure is Kids Day (kids 12 and under get in free).
Music, laughter and silliness abound as this year’s fair features more wandering entertainers than in years past. That should make for lots of fun as you wander Frogtown exploring artwork by area professionals and students, edible wonders entered for lucky judges to sample and contests that are sure to get you hollering. Gypsy Time Travelers, Fables of the West, Sadie’s Balloon Mania and Something Ridiculous promise laugher suitable for all ages all over the fairgrounds.
Speaking of hollering, and if you’ve got a competitive streak, there’s a hog calling contest at 3:30 p.m. Thursday and a corn dog eating contest at 2 p.m. Saturday. If you’ve got arms like a certain cartoon sailor with a fondness for spinach, you might enter the arm wrestling competition at 12 p.m. Saturday. I’ve always found this a crowd-pleasing bit of root-for-your-favorite character kind of event that finds the crowd as excited as the contestants.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, don’t miss the Grand Entry that’s a salute to veterans. Men and women who have served in our armed services will carry a huge American flag into the arena before the rodeo kicks up some dust. Kids get into the arena action a bit earlier as the stick horse and boot races feature little ones clamoring for success. The coin grab’s a winner, too. These festivities start at 6:30 p.m.
If you manage to walk through Frogtown anytime over the four days of fair and not hear any music, you’ve got cotton candy in your ears, because the 2015 fair is loaded with performers. Asleep at the Wheel takes country music fans on a ride at 8 p.m. Friday and local acts entertain at every turn. From folksy grooves to rock ’n’ roll classics, you’ll hear it all at all hours of each day.
By Sunday, you’ll be ready for the International Frog Jump Finals at 3 p.m., when those amphibians take turns trying to leap into history. And everything comes to a crushing halt at 5:30 p.m. That’s when entrants in the Friends of the Calaveras County Fair’s annual Pot-o-Gold drawing scan their tickets to see if they’ve won the $10,000 grand prize. OK, the real crunching sounds roll into the arena at that time for the destruction derby that’s a fine closer to a fine fair.
Grab the kids and the grandparents and head to the fairgrounds for some annual fun. You’ll see all of your friends and neighbors and you’re all sure to have a great time. The frogs appreciate you, so jump on in.
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