Dedication, hunger, and fun – a combination for success? This story about a small town tradition may prove so, or at least proves how community, tradition, and competition create a recipe for lasting memories and lots of laughter.
Stockton Tavern Owner Uses Ancient Secret
By DAN HRUBY, Mercury Sports Writer – originally published in 1967
While 30,000 persons tried to stave off the boiling point in 96 degree heat, Mike Voitich saw his Sidewinner IV leap off with the $300 first prize.
Sidewinder IV, a green, speckled entry with a ho-hum expression, missed the $1,000 prize because he jumped only 17 feet, 11 inches, short of the world record of 19-3 1/8.
Voitich, 62, said the secret is desire.
“I’ve got 75 frogs,” he said. “I have my own preliminaries. I had six entries this year and this is the third time I’ve finished first since I started entering 25 years ago.”
Any coach will agree he must instill a hunger to win in his charges.
“I just instill hunger,” confided Mike. “I catch my frogs two weeks before the contest. They are full of crawdads and snails. Real sluggish, you know. I starve ’em the last week, then give them a few nibbles of chicken livers and hamburger and let them go.”
How about some nips of whiskey from Mike’s tavern?
“Won’t work,” insisted Voitich. “Makes ‘em jump straight up, just like you and me.”
Top finisher from the Bay Area was Croaker II, entered by two Santa Clara fifth grade teachers (Sutter School). He wound up fourth with a 17-2 leap.
“We stayed up all Saturday night catching him at Stockton,” said Leland Guidici and Bill Guzules. “We wanted a fresh frog. We’ll retire him to a swimming pool (Guidici’s), like we did with Croaker I in 1965. He’ll love it.”
Pruneface, San Jose Chamber of Commerce entry, hopped only 5-3 in his division Saturday and glumly returned to his Almaden pond.
Friends said he complained he was a Capricorn and couldn’t jump under the Gemini zodiac sign now under affect.
A hassle broke out early Sunday when a human-type “frog,” a student at Chabot Junior College in Hayward, suddenly entered a preliminary jumpoff.
Victor Bonamour shocked judges when he ran out and quickly jumped 23 feet, 10 inches, four feet over the world’s record.
When officials tried to give Bonamour the old heave-ho, he whipped out a legal-looking paper he said was a court writ obtained by his attorney, San Francisco’s controversial Melvin Belli.
“This stipulates – and you can check your dictionary – that Frenchmen are commonly known as ‘frogs.’ I was born in Bordeau, France, so I’m a frog and I want the $1,000 prize,” Bonamour asserted.
He wore a bulky green shirt with “Victor” splashed across the front and “HAYWARD SUPER FROG” across the back. For the record, the Hayward entry was called “GOOD LOVE.”
After considerable haggling, officials asked Calaveras Fair attorney Clyde Sherwood for help.
Sherwood’s ruling was in the finest tradition of Mark Twain, whose whimsical yarn about two miners and tier jumping frogs started all this 102 years ago.
“In the first place, the rules state all jumpers must be amphibian,” Sherwood declared. “Entrants must stay submerged 15 minutes under water in our frog pond, which incidentally, is only four inches deep.
“Secondly, there’s the problem of jumping posture. All frogs must spring off a spot (about the size of a pizza), with arms and legs down. The only exceptions are made in the international division. For example, we would let a ‘frong’ like General DeGauulle jump off two legs.”
Judges were called in, too, to decide the fate of an invisible frog flown here by Mayor Neil Blaisdell of Honolulu. Backers claimed the entry, named “Alotta Alhoa Baull,” had leaped for a world record.
But it was disqualified for jumping into the grandstand and was last seen – or unseen – headed for Sacramento.
Some 2,500 frogs jumped for love and money (mostly the former in the four-day event).
“We had one bad accident,” said judge Ike Moore of the Angels Camp Boosters Club. “A lady jockey was jumping alongside her frog when she missed. That is, she missed missing it. The frog was pretty badly stomped.”
And was the lady distraught?
“Not on your life,” said Moore, whose brother Al runs a San Jose household supply store. “She was mad at the fro because it wouldn’t jump any more.”
In competition among governor and mayor frogs, Buena Park, Calif., and Nevada came home winners. Mayor Jesse M. Davis’ frog topped the mayors’ category, followed by frogs from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Concord, N.H.
The official Baltimore, Md., entry – a toad – was disqualified and adjudged the most stupid non-frog, for not knowing it was a toad. Florida’s “Claude Hopper” was selected the prettiest frog.
California’s “Old 49er,” entered by host Gov. Ronald Reagan, did little better than Twain’s original jumping frog, “Ol Daniel.”
“Older 49er” managed just 2 feet, 10 inches. “Ol Daniel” never got off the ground in Twain’s yarn because he had been filled with quail shot.
Probably the two hardest workers in Angels Camp were nurse Bobbie Hill and Federal Aviation Administrator Carl Estep of Stockton.
Mrs. Hill listed 30 persons who fainted or sought emergency aid from heat Sunday.
“People don’t realize how hot it is,” Mrs. Hill said. “They sit in the sun for three hours, stand up and then faint.”
And Estep, manning a landing strip tower alongside the grounds, counted 125 visiting plans at mid-afternoon.
“And Saturday night two tipsy guys staggered to their plane and took off, if that’s what you call it, before we could stop them.”
Twain might say they had a Mother Lode on.
Dan Hruby, who has been a loyal customer to GH Sports almost since the day it opened (and its predecessor, the Hind Performance as well), is a retired sports editor and columnist of the San Jose Mercury News. During his 45-year career in San Jose, he covered eight Olympics–summer and winter. He wrote of the exploits of such athletes as Mark Spitz and Don Schollander in swimming, Tommie Smith and Bruce Jenner in track and field, Joe Montana and Jim Plunkett in football, Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson in baseball, Rick Barry in basketball, Mohammed Ali in boxing and Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in golf, to spotlight just a few among hundreds of sports stars. Plus covering a ton of Super Bowls, U.S. Golf Opens, World Series, Wimbledon for tennis, Kentucky Derbys and many national collegiate championships.
ABOUT THE TRADITION OF THE JUMPING FROG JUBILEE
The Jumping Frog Jubilee is held the 3rd full weekend every May. The Jubilee starts with a children’s parade in downtown Angels Camp and ends with the Destruction Derby on Sunday night. The Calaveras County Fair has a unique history and a bright future.
The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee is one of the longest running events in the State of California. Its earliest roots date back to 1893, held that year in Copperopolis. The fair eventually found a permanent home outside of Angels Camp. In the spirit of the old movie classic “State Fair,” the Calaveras County Fair is a blend of entertainment, exhibits, livestock, arena events, great food and our signature event, the International Frog Jump. This piece of Americana will have you Leaping to return year after year.
Today, few events illustrate the gold rush era, as well as the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. Every May the entire community celebrates its history and its future. The tradition of county residents showing off their best still holds true today. The Calaveras County Fair has as many as 7000 exhibits. The junior livestock auction generated over $350,000 for the county’s youth.
The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee has grown to an event with more than 45,000 attendees. It is estimated that the Calaveras County Fair generates approximately $25.5 million in revenues through hotels, restaurants, retail, payroll and other related revenues.
Discover more or plan your visit on their website.