(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