Do you jump like a frog on Frog Jumping Day? Or do you jump over frogs? A little clarity would go a long way here. Perhaps a good place to start would be to look at the origin of the holiday–starting with a short story by a fledgling author born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but who the world would know better as Mark Twain. The story was published under two separate titles: the earlier being “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” and the latter being, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” In some anthologies, it even appears as “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Each title sets a unique stage that creates an overall mood to the story, even though the text is identical. (Here’s the actual story, too.) [photo via flickr]
This day in which we laud this fictional amphibian is as mysterious as the evolution of the story’s title. It’s always celebrated on May 13. This is neither the date of Mark Twain’s birth nor death. The date also has nothing to do with when the story was published. It simply is May 13.
The most interesting bit of the story is its basis in fact. There really is a Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee in California that runs every year with the premier event, of course, being the Frog Jumping Competition. Out of the scores of giddy green entrants, fifty qualify for the International Frog Jump Grand Finals, always held on a Sunday during the fair. They even document the World Record for frog jumping there, which has held true now for 27 years. It was set in 1986 by altogether agile amphibian Rosie the Ribeter. She jumped 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches. The standing cash prize for breaking the world record is currently $50. The longest-held record prior to Rosie went for just a decade, from 1966-1976 by a robust croaker named Ripple.
The Jumping Frog Jubilee is held annually during the third weekend in May–which is kind of close to that May 13th date. During this weekend, actual professional frog jumping teams (with, one would imagine, their seasoned, professional jumping frogs in tow) from all over the state converge for this ultimate test of amphibious dexterity. During the week prior to the Jubilee, these consummate croakers spend a week in the lap of froggy luxury in the fair’s aptly-named Frog Spa which is open to the public for their frog-peeping pleasure. It’s some serious competing–and you can show your kids that you’re not making it up with this clip from the frogumentary called Jump. Otherwise, they might just think you’re trying to trick them into reading Mark Twain…