Cities are always working to leap frog over the next city — to get a leg up on the competition so to speak, to be the place that shows up at the top of all those “best places” lists. Everybody is working an angle to gain a competitive advantage. It’s serious business, but sometimes I think cities fall victim to taking themselves too seriously, so in that spirit I thought I’d share how some cities are using frog jumping contests (amphibious and human kind) to leap frog ahead of the competition.
I admit, frog jumping isn’t exactly the high brow stuff that one would think of using to market a university city like Kent as a tourist destination, but I had a professor of marketing who said you should always start by asking yourself, “what would you never do.” I’m guessing that frog jumping might be near the top of that list. So let’s start there.
Believe it or not I discovered that there is actually a World Frog Jumping Competition, as well as a National Frog Jumping Tournament here in the states. I guess it’s like having a Miss America contest followed by the Miss Universe competition. There’s even a “Frog Hop” of Fame.
The whole frog jumping thing started back in 1928 in Angel Camp California to celebrate paving of Main Street. Reminiscent of Kent’s DICE events today, they decided held a frog jump competition to bring people downtown to see the newly paved street.
The frog jump competition was modeled after the frog jump in the famous short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, written by Mark Twain who it turns out spent a great deal of time in Angels Camp and first heard the jumping frog story at the Angels Hotel that still stands today. The event became known as the Jumping Frog Jubilee. Every year since 1928, with the exception of 1933 during the great depression, the Jumping Frog Jubilee has been hold in Angels Camp.
In 1938 the County Fair and the Jumping Frog Jubilee were combined. Today this internationally renowned event draws competitors from around the world as hundred jockeys and their frogs compete. The winner receives a trophy, $750 and a plaque honoring the jockey and his or her frog is embedded into the sidewalls of downtown Angels Camp. World record holders
recieve special recognition on the plaque as a world record holder in addition to a trophy and $5,000. The current world record is 21′ 5 3/4″.
During the competition, the frogs are allowed to jump three times while their jockeys scream and yell at them and beat the ground. Frogs are kept in bins of warmed water to maximise their jumping potential and handlers guard fiercely the exact temperature they like the amphibians to reach.
Apparently many of the competitors spend the days leading up to the contest scouring surrounding ponds and wetlands for the perfect long-legged entrant.
In researching frog hopping I discovered that there’s some controversy between the national event sponsors and the judges, so I was thinking now’s our chance to bring all those frog jockey’s to Kent. I knew that Portage County has more wetlands than any other county in Ohio, so I figured that means we’re bound to have lots of Michael Jordanesque bull frogs hanging around.
I checked around to see what other frog competitions are out there and the field is actually more crowded than you might think. The Governor of South Carolina even weighed in on the topic by declaring Springfield, South Carolina’s official frog jumping capital.
With that in mind, I thought maybe we should just focus on being Ohio’s frog jumping capital but believe it or not, somebody already beat us to it — Valley City.
With nearly all hope lost, I then found a reference to human frog jumping. What is human frog jumping you ask? A “frog jump” is when you hold both of your big toes while jumping. (See picture below to get the full effect).
It appears that Ashrita Furman, 52, of Queens, New York, broke the Guinness Book world record for the fastest frog jump on March 28 at the Boston Frog Pond on Boston Common. He did the frog jump for 10 meters in 9.50 seconds. The former record was 11.58 seconds, set five years ago by Bastien Lecomte of France. Furman has broken records in all seven continents and holds the title for having the most number of Guinness records held by an individual (140 since 1979; 57 in the year 2007).
So grab a frog, or your toes, and let’s make a splash in sports tourism in Portage County.