LIVERPOOL TWP. — Frog after frog jumped from the center of the ring as handlers clapped their hands and slapped the ground to urge them on Sunday during the 57th annual Valley City Frog Jump.
Linda Garrett, secretary of the Valley City Community Group, a nonprofit organization that hosted the event, said there were about 700 frogs jumping Sunday.
Nancy Hoffman, of Grand Rapids, Mich., brought two of her nine grandchildren to town to participate in the frog jump.
“I do have family here and I grew up here,” Hoffman said. “We live in a small town, but we don’t have anything like this.”
Hoffman said she tries to encourage her grandchildren to step out of their comfort zones and try new things.
Valley City Community Group volunteer Rod Knight said the frog jump originally was the brainchild of the late Andy Neff of Valley City, who suggested the Mark Twain-inspired frog jump as something area kids could participate in to help celebrate the Liverpool Township sesquicentennial in 1962.
Knight said there were other activities such as an old-time horse pull, but they all faded away over the years while the frog jump remained an anticipated event year after year.
While frog jump participants have the option of renting a frog for the competition, Knight said contestants are encouraged to search for one of their own.
“We encourage them to bring their own because what we find is 20-30 years later the kids remember going out with dad to catch a frog,” Knight said. “I have heard that today several times already, but for those that cannot, or will not, we provide rental frogs.”
Jason Shienkaruk, of Brunswick, and 6-year-old daughter, Natalie, competed in the frog jump for the first time with an amphibian they caught Sunday morning.
“I have lived in Brunswick for a long time and I was always curious, and now my daughter is 6 years old and she loves frogs,” Shienkaruk said. “She is like an expert frog catcher.”
Knight said once registered, contestants are assigned a “flight” and wait with 19 other frog jumpers to compete. The frog is placed in the green center of a circle and their distance is measured following the third jump.
“We hope for 35 flights of 20 each, so it would be 700 frogs,” he said.
After a winner is declared from each of the 35 flights, those individuals then compete in the Grand Jump Off, with a champion trophy awarded to the handler with the frog that jumps the farthest.
Garrett said she believes the event’s simplicity is one of the reasons it has remained a popular community pastime for more than half a century.
“It is a traditional festival, it is growing but it is not technology-based,” she said. “It is people-based and frog-based.”