(This history written by Duane Naftzger)
Many people throughout the nation and the world know that Mark Twain,
world famous author who wrote "The
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (why not finish
this site before you follow the link to another site and read the
story?), started it all in a California gold mining era setting. Still,
the question asked many times each year as the Valley City event gets
closer is, How in the world did the popular frog jumping contests
ever get started in the small rural community of Valley City?
The question carries a simple answer. The origin of the event started
during preparations for the Liverpool Townships sesquicentennial
celebration in 1962. Duane Naftzger, the general chairman of the event,
and Andrew Neff, the historian, were reportedly discussing the program
while enjoying a double sarsaparilla at a local Liverpool oasis. They
were striving to come up with some local entertainment, especially
something for the children, to be included in the 150th anniversary
program. The idea of staging a frog jumping contest came up, and it
was agreed to hold one during the big mid-summer community celebration.
That first Valley City Frog Jump was held on July 21 and 22, 1962,
at a local farm on Myrtle Hill Road. Threshing, a pony pull, a horse
pull and an entertainment group called the "Backskinners"
helped celebrate the Valley City Sesquicentennial. Some 7500 attendees
were reported by the Elyria Chronicle Telegraph. The late Al Thomas
covered the event for The Medina County Gazette and wrote, "Not
only did the entry list soar to 132, but the audience area had to
be roped off on Sunday." That first event in 1962 was the beginning
of the current annual contests.
To keep the event going each year, the Valley City Progress Association
was formed as temporary sponsor until a permanent sponsor could
be developed. That group promoted the event until 1967 when the
Valley City Chamber of Commerce started sponsoring it and continues
to do so.
On April 2, 1964, then Governor James A. Rhodes of Ohio issued
a proclamation designating the frog jumping contests as the official
Ohio State championship contests.
In 1969 several Valley City Frogs were shipped to Calaveras County,
California, to compete in their contest. One was Gov. Rhodes
frog, named "Leaping Ohio".
The event continued to be held at the farm for several years, then
moved to Macks Lazy T Ranch, then to downtown Valley City,
and in 1969 returned to the Lazy T Ranch. In 2001 the Jump inaugurated
the new Liverpool Mill Stream Park near Valley City town center. It
enjoys a bucolic view of the Rocky River and a level ground which
lets all events be within view. Hopefully this will be a long
term home for the event.
Parachute jumpers brought in frogs in 1968 and 69. In 68
one of the jumpers landed on the fire station roof in downtown Valley
City. The frog was okay.
Many strange and interesting stories have grown up around the Frog
Jump. Separating fact from fiction is sometimes difficult to do.
But the following tale has been around long enough to carry some
elements of truth:
It seems that one local individual trained his frog to jump whenever
the individual whistled. This was at the time when Louis Seltzer,
the late editor of the old Cleveland Press, wanted the Valley City
group to come to Cleveland and tell him about the frog jumping event.
So the group headed downtown for the Cleveland Press. The individual
carried the frog on his lap with a derby hat over it. While going
down Euclid Avenue a young lady with the kind of legs that set off
a mini skirt came by, and the frog owner emitted a low whistle.
Of course the frog jumped as trained, but unfortunately out of the
open car window and onto Euclid Avenue. A CTS bus came by just then
and that was the end of the well trained frog.
Perhaps best of all about the Frog Jumps is that they have become
associated with a community of progress. The group must have envisioned
such a community when it took on the name of the Valley City Community
Progress Association back in 1963. The word "Progress"
is now used many times in community promotions and businesses, and
does reflect our community.
Want to know more about frogs? How to tell one kind from another?
How to catch and feed them? How to improve your chances of a successful
jump? Hear a bullfrog? Jay Reynolds, long known in Valley City
as Mr. Frogman, and a student of frogs for many years, shares some
of his fascinating information. Click
Valley City, Ohio >> Frogs
>> Frog Jump Festival >> Frog