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Attendance up at Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee
California Carnival Company on the midway

6/6/2014

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of

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It took a little more than a few crumpled dollars to gain admission to the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, held from May 15 through May 18 in Angels Camp, California. If you really wanted to get in on the action, you also needed a commitment to the California bull frog. Your personal frog had to be at least four inches long - from nose to tail - to enter the contest.

After several preliminary events, the finals were held on Sunday afternoon. Casey Nash and his energetic frog won the contest. Nash, a resident of Vallecito, California, lives only about 14 or 15 miles from the fairgrounds, said Laurie Giannini, fair CEO since 2011. Likely, Nash's champion frog was very local. And vocal. Nash won $750 for his and his frog's efforts, said Giannini.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee has Photo By grown to more than 35,000 attendees. It is estimated that the Calaveras County Fair generates approximately 25.5 million dollars in revenue through hotels, restaurants, retail, payroll and other related revenues throughout the community, according to the fair's website. Nearly 40,000 people attended the fair this year, said Giannini, a nice increase over previous years.

The increased attendance could have had something to do with the wonderful weather, she said. The temperatures were between the mid-70s and mid-80s throughout the event.

The county fair has been held since 1893. The frog jubilee was added in 1998, and it's been a great success. The event is meant to illustrate the California Gold Rush era and to focus on the agility of the frogs.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is one of the longest running events in the state of California. The fair was first held in Copperopolis, California and later moved to Angels Camp, in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. The small town, with a population of just under 4,000, was the site of a gold strike in the 1800s, and it was also the scene of a jumping frog contest, according to Mark Twain's short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Twain claimed he first heard the story at the Angels Hotel in 1865. The event depicted in his story is commemorated in the annual jumping frog jubilee.

Angels Camp, California is sometimes referred to as "Frogtown." And frogs reign as first citizens during the fair.

A Frog Spa is open for tours daily.  The frogs are treated with the utmost care and respect, according to Giannini. In 1933, the California Fish and Game Commission became involved in order to regulate and protect the welfare of the California bullfrog. In 1995, the Board of Directors of the 39th District Agricultural Association, which oversees the operations of the county fair, adopted the Frog Welfare Policy, underscoring the fair's commitment to treat the frogs in a humane manner. Professional frog teams travel from all over the state to compete in the jubilee.

The jubilee starts with a children's parade in downtown Angels Camp and ends with a Destruction Derby, or demolition derby, on Sunday night.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee has been featured in movies and on television shows. The frogs at one point went to New York City for The Today Show.  Frogtown has been featured in a documentary called "JUMP," on Disney Movie Surfer's opening of the movie "The Princess and the Frog," and on "California Golden Fairs."
The Calaveras County Fair is a blend of entertainment, exhibits, livestock, arena events and the frog jump.

"We had all kinds of fair food - everything from corn dogs to prime rib," said Giannini. "We had Chinese, Mexican, anything anybody would want."

The fair has more than 7,000 exhibits. The junior livestock auction, put on by local students from area schools, generates more than $300,000 a year and features all kinds of farm animals, including birds, rabbits, sheep, goats, cattle and steer.

Admission to the fair was between $8 and $15, depending on when the tickets were purchased and if they were purchased on the internet, said Giannini. The cost of parking was extra, but all of the entertainment within the 71-acre fairgrounds was included in the price of admission.

The fairgrounds also includes an RV park with overnight camping facilities available at a moderate cost. In addition, there are a number of hotels and motels available near Angels Camp.

"We like to use local entertainment because that's what the people seem to want," she said. "We had 10 bands. James Garner, Journey and Unauthorized were some of the most popular bands."

The fair was advertised through newspapers, radio, billboards and social media and other traditional methods of advertising, said Giannini, with an advertising budget of $15,000 for the four-day event.

California Carnival Company was in charge on the midway, as the Sacramento, California-based company has been since 1991. The company brings with it games, rides for both children and adults and games.

The California Carnival Company was founded in 1981 and uses "the midway is a family affair" as its company slogan. Rides included the Century Wheel, the Sizzler, the Zipper, Hammer Time, Tilt-a-Whirl, Ferris wheel, Texas Tornado, the Tune Tree and the Jungle of Fun.

Giannini praised the company for its cleanliness, safety record and good food.

The fair and jumping frog jubilee is over for this year. If you want to get an early start, you can capture your bullfrog soon and get started with the training. The fair next year will be held from Thursday, May 14 until Sunday, May 17.

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