VALLEY CITY – The community will be alive and hopping in more ways than one next weekend as Mill Stream Park turns green on Sunday, Aug. 18 as part of the 58th annual Valley City Frog Jump.
The event, which is the largest international frog jump competition anywhere in the United States, routinely attracts thousands to the heart of Liverpool Township one Sunday every summer where guests both young and old try their best to get their frogs to jump the farthest in a series of three measured hops.
While some of the competitors, referred to as jockeys, simply set their frogs down and hope for the best, others try their hand at every strategy imaginable – from yelling at and blowing on the frogs to smacking their hands on the jumping ring itself in hopes of startling the frog and forcing it to hop away fast and far.
Historically speaking, some frogs comply, while others continue to prove, time and again, that frogs have personalities all their own. The latter routinely makes for an unexpected and often comedic affair as jockeys compete not only to win their flight, which consists of approximately 20 frogs, but for a chance to go on to compete against all flight winners in the grand jump off which ultimately will decide this year’s winner.
Though anything can happen in the jumping arena on any given festival Sunday, guests can expect to be treated to the beloved festival atmosphere they’ve come to love for generations. In addition to a variety of games and amusements hosted in the Coppertop Golf Kids Tent, this year’s Frog Jump also will feature the Hoppin’ Retail Shoppe where guests can purchase a variety of commemorative souvenirs, including special logo T-shirts and even new onesies designed with the festival’s youngest guests in mind. Additional vendors selling crafts and other merchandise will also be available throughout the park.
An entire smorgasbord of treats, eats and cold drinks will also be available throughout the event with everything from chicken dinners, ribs, burgers, pizza, popcorn, pies, cotton candy and watermelon highlighting the menu. Beer and wine will also be available in the Valley City Supply Pavilion Beer and Wine Garden, as well as in Valley Kennels’ Ring Beer Tent.
As the Frog Jump will coincide with the Valley City Fire Department’s annual Street Fair, additional food, entertainment and fun will be available just a short distance from the park.
“Having both events at the same time gives people a variety of things to do, especially when they a long wait between flights at the Frog Jump,” said Linda Garrett, secretary for the Valley City Community Group. “There’s more activities for both kids and adults this way.”
Garrett said the frog jump serves as the Valley City Community Group’s top fundraising event of the year. The funds generated by the event are not only used to benefit scholarships distributed to local students each year but to benefit the Valley City community.
This year, a portion of the $13,000 raised in 2018 was used to upgrade the electrical system in the Mill Stream pavilion to include LED lighting which was completed last month. The next project the VCCG is looking to complete is the construction of a larger pavilion at the park, Garrett said, noting that installing historically accurate lighting on the bridge and the addition of new streetscape improvements are also being considered as future projects.
From 8-10 a.m., coffee and donuts will be available to all those registering for the event in the registration tent, sponsored by the Greg Zolton State Farm Agency. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and will last until all flights are sold out. Registration is $5 per jump and participants have the option of bringing their own frogs or renting one the day of the event for $5.
Prior to the first jump, which will begin at 11 a.m., the VCCG will host a dedication ceremony at 10:50 a.m. at the Three D Metals jumping ring in memory of Barbara Knight, who passed away in May. Knight, who served as a VCCG board member, was known throughout the community as the Frog Jump’s “biggest cheerleader” and was also a champion of the Liverpool Township Historical Society.
Like so many others who attend the festival, Knight was known to go green for the Frog Jump every year, donning her frog jump T-shirts and her colorful beanie topped with various frog pins and even a propeller. This year’s festival T-shirt has been designed in her memory, featuring a frog in a baseball jersey adorned with Knight’s initials on the frog’s sleeve.
At noon, there will be a wing-eating contest sponsored by Quaker Steak & Lube for contestants 15 years old and younger, followed by a similar contest for those over the age of 16 at 1 p.m. An atomic wing eating contest will also take place at 3 p.m.
The University Hospitals’ medical chopper is also scheduled to land in the park during the afternoon for guests to get an up close and personal look at the helicopter.
The frog jumping contest is expected to be complete by 5 p.m., with trophies to be presented and photos taken immediately after.
“The purpose of the Frog Jump Festival is to have a thoroughly enjoyable family fun day for the community and for our visitors,” Garrett said. “Our measure of success is in seeing kids, parents and grandparents all leave happily at the end of the day, satisfied, with full tummies, and glad they attended again this year. Some of them will be lucky enough to be carrying one or more trophies home that night.”