A Froggy Tradition Leaps Onwards, Upwards

The small green amphibians of Calaveras County are ready to jump.

AMPHIBIANS AHOY: May must be the official month for jumping animals 'round the Golden State. We have the Flying Fish Festival at Catalina Island -- yep, be-finned creatures of the deep really do exit the water and seemingly "fly" above its surface for several feet -- and we have those famous beasties of literature and fable, the Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County. Writer Mark Twain made the wee Gold Country denizens famous via his famous short story, and they've been celebrities ever since. Call it one of the most long-lasting California traditions, too, the jumping of the frogs; it has its roots, or tiny froggy legs, if you prefer, all the way back into the late 1800s. The tradition still flies high today, or perhaps the right word is "far." Frogs can clear over 20 feet in a single leap. That's impressive. Think, size-wise, if you tried to do the same. Comparatively you'd have to jump down a city block, or just about.

DATES AND DETAILS: The Calaveras County Fair, the annual setting for the frog jump, lights up the midway from Thursday, May 16 through Sunday, May 19 in Angels Camp. The fair itself is full of classic touches, like tunes and food, but the International Frog Jump closes it out on May 19. You can see the frogly competitors ahead of the competition at the on-site Frog Spa, and you can see them competing to qualifying rounds in the days leading up to the competition. They're definitely the small stars of the big fair.

QUIRKY NAMES: Beyond its historic and literary connections, we like the frog names best. They tend to come with colorful monikers as befits the colorful contest. If you can't make the weekend, a trip through Angels Camp any time of the year will be plenty froggy. The ribbit-sounding mascot is seen throughout the quaint burg on signs, sidewalks, and various souvenirs.

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