July 28, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
65°F

Taking a Leap: Liverpool Twp. festival celebrates everything frog

LIVERPOOL TWP. — The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County ain’t got nothin’ on the bullfrogs of Liverpool Township.

The 49th annual Frog Jump Festival, inspired by Mark Twain’s short story, had about 650 participants of all ages on Sun­day.

The event is a fundraiser for the Liver­pool Chamber of Commerce and fea­tures food, frog-themed merchandise and kids games, in addition to the frog­jumping competition. Anyone could bring a frog to the event or rent one for $5.

Grand Champions Ross Maenza and his 10-year-old daughter Josie Freeble, of Amherst, watch their frog take its winning leap at the Frog Jump Festival in Liverpool Township on Sunday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

Grand Champions Ross Maenza and his 10-year-old daughter Josie Freeble, of Amherst, watch their frog take its winning leap at the Frog Jump Festival in Liverpool Township on Sunday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

The competitors placed their frogs in the center of a parachute on the ground. Without touching the frogs, it was up to the competitors to yell or slap the ground to encourage their frogs to make three large jumps. Wherever the frog was on its third jump marked its total distance from the center. Awards were given to the win­ners of each division, called a “flight,” and for the longest and shortest jump. The flight winners then competed for Grand Champion jumper.

The winner of longest jump and Grand Champion was 10-year-old Josie Freeble, of Amherst, and her father, RossMaenza, and their frog, Jumper.

Jumper was a former resident of Free­ble’s uncle’s pond, Maenza said.

Their longest jump measured 15 feet, 10 inches.

After making it to the jump-off, Josie and Maenza were in a two-way tie for first place with a 13-foot, 9-inch jump. One tiebreaking round later, the father­daughter pair were awarded the Grand Champion trophy.

“It was really great when I finally (won),” Josie said. A third-generation frog jumper, Josie said she has been jumping frogs “since I was a baby.”

Josie and her family are not the only ones who have a long history with the festival.

Rod Knight, one of the direc­tors of the Chamber of Com­merce, said he and his wife, Barb, have been working the festival for 34 years.

Knight said for him, just watching people enjoy them­selves was one of the high points of the day.

“The community spirit is amazing,” Knight said.

The event began when the township was celebrating its 150th birthday. The original festival included several other events, like horse pulling, but frog jumping is the one that stuck, Knight said.

“It’s just incredible that peo­ple come out to this year after year,” he said.

Now celebrating its bicen­tennial, the township’s birth­day did not go unnoticed at this year’s Frog Jump Festival, Chamber Vice President Linda Garrett said. The retail tent sold out of many of the mer­chandise that featured the frog jump and the township’s bicentennial, she said.

Judy Riley, who was in charge of registration for the event, said this was the first year that all 700 spots on the jumping roster were not filled, but that she was still impressed with the turnout because of the hot weather.

“The food was great and the frogs performed,” Riley said. “Who could ask for more than that?”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.