Frog Jump Founders
In 1962 a group of residents was planning for the Sesquicentennial (150th) Celebration of the settling of Liverpool Township (Valley City). They discussed the desire for some event for the children. Andy Neff suggested Mark Twain’s famous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. Duane Naftzger thought this was a fine idea. And so a tradition was begun.
Before that first Jump cold take place, Jay Reynolds started his involvement by catching some frogs for folks to use.
The Valley City Frog Jump was started to serve the interests of children of all ages. Now Valley City is known throughout the country, and indeed the world, for its Frog Jump.
In the year 2000 the Jump was dedicated to the memory of Duane Naftzer. The 2001 Jump, which was also the 40th anniversary, was dedicated to Andy Neff. Andy was able to be present at the start of the Jump to personally receive this dedication. The 2003 Jump was dedicated in honor of Jay Reynolds. Jay was present to receive the honor, and promptly resumed teaching his popular “Frog School”. All three have now passed to that great Frog Pond in the Sky.
Frog Jump History
(This history written by Duane Naftzger)
Many people throughout the nation and the world know that Mark Twain, world famous author who wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (why not finish this site before you follow the link to another site and read the story?), started it all in a California gold mining era setting. Still, the question asked many times each year as the Valley City event gets closer is, ‘How in the world did the popular frog jumping contests ever get started in the small rural community of Valley City?’ The question carries a simple answer. The origin of the event started during preparations for the Liverpool Township’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1962. Duane Naftzger, the general chairman of the event, and Andrew Neff, the historian, were reportedly discussing the program while enjoying a double sarsaparilla at a local Liverpool oasis. They were striving to come up with some local entertainment, especially something for the children, to be included in the 150th anniversary program. The idea of staging a frog jumping contest came up, and it was agreed to hold one during the big mid-summer community celebration.
That first Valley City Frog Jump was held on July 21 and 22, 1962, at a local farm on Myrtle Hill Road. Threshing, a pony pull, a horse pull and an entertainment group called the “Backskinners” helped celebrate the Valley City Sesquicentennial. Some 7500 attendees were reported by the Elyria Chronicle Telegraph. The late Al Thomas covered the event for The Medina County Gazette and wrote, “Not only did the entry list soar to 132, but the audience area had to be roped off on Sunday.” That first event in 1962 was the beginning of the current annual contests.
To keep the event going each year, the Valley City Progress Association was formed as temporary sponsor until a permanent sponsor could be developed. That group promoted the event until 1967 when the Valley City Chamber of Commerce started sponsoring it and continued for many years. In 2016 the baton was passed to a new organization founded in large part to handle the Frog Jump, The Valley City Community Group.
On April 2, 1964, then Governor James A. Rhodes of Ohio issued a proclamation designating the frog jumping contests as the official Ohio State championship contests.
In 1969 several Valley City Frogs were shipped to Calaveras County, California, to compete in their contest. One was Gov. Rhodes’ frog, named “Leaping Ohio”.
The event continued to be held at the farm for several years, then moved to Mack’s Lazy T Ranch, then to downtown Valley City, and in 1969 returned to the Lazy T Ranch. In 2001 the Jump inaugurated the new Liverpool Mill Stream Park near Valley City town center. It enjoys a bucolic view of the Rocky River and a level ground which lets all events be within view. Hopefully this will be a long term home for the event.
Parachute jumpers brought in frogs in 1968 and 69. In ‘68 one of the jumpers landed on the fire station roof in downtown Valley City. The frog was okay.
Many strange and interesting stories have grown up around the Frog Jump. Separating fact from fiction is sometimes difficult to do. But the following tale has been around long enough to carry some elements of truth:
It seems that one local individual trained his frog to jump whenever the individual whistled. This was at the time when Louis Seltzer, the late editor of the old Cleveland Press, wanted the Valley City group to come to Cleveland and tell him about the frog jumping event. So the group headed downtown for the Cleveland Press. The individual carried the frog on his lap with a derby hat over it. While going down Euclid Avenue a young lady with the kind of legs that set off a mini skirt came by, and the frog owner emitted a low whistle. Of course the frog jumped as trained, but unfortunately out of the open car window and onto Euclid Avenue. A CTS bus came by just then and that was the end of the well trained frog.
Perhaps best of all about the Frog Jumps is that they have become associated with a community of progress. The group must have envisioned such a community when it took on the name of the Valley City Community Progress Association back in 1963. The word “Progress” is now used many times in community promotions and businesses, and does reflect our community.
Want to know more about frogs? How to tell one kind from another? How to catch and feed them? How to improve your chances of a successful jump? Hear a bullfrog? Jay Reynolds, long known in Valley City as Mr. Frogman, and a student of frogs for many years, shares some of his fascinating information. Click here.