Frogs - and kids - compete in Plainfield

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
Gavin Hawkins' frog launches itself into the air. Photos by D. Coffey.
Gavin Hawkins' frog launches itself into the air. Photos by D. Coffey.

Pastor Terry Hood addressed the crowd at the 14th Annual Frog Jumping Contest at Lions Park, in Plainfield, on July 27. The First Congregational Church, where she is pastor, sponsored the event. “After the contest, make sure the frogs go back where you found them,” she told the youngsters who'd brought buckets of them to the park.

They came in all sizes: huge bullfrogs and sleek green frogs and one frog so small it had a hard time jumping over the blades of grass. The contestants caught them on their own, or they used community frogs provided by church volunteers.

Three adjacent circles held three contests at a time. Two judges were on hand at each circle to make sure the rules were followed: touching a frog was grounds for disqualification. So was spraying water on them. Contestants could pound the ground behind the creature or blow on it. Otherwise their hands were tied. The first frog to jump outside of the 22-foot diameter circle won.

Frog jumping is taken seriously in Plainfield. And for many participants, the contest is a tradition. Joyce Shippee traces the event back to the contests held during family vacations in Newport, Maine. “My daughters said it would be a fabulous fundraiser for the church,” Shippee said. Fourteen years ago they instituted it in Plainfield.

More than 50 participants signed up for the contest. Extended families filled Lions Park to enjoy an assortment of games, face-painting and food. Trophies and prizes were given out in three age groups.

Audrey Strmiska has been competing since she was 18 months old. She caught her own frog days before the event. She fashioned an obstacle course and training pit out of a wading pool and she and her frog “Springer” practiced each night. She fed him a high-protein diet of meal worms and flies. 

Elaina Deojay and her sister caught several frogs the day before the contest. Deojay held hers tightly when she was called to the circle. “Charlie Sheen” won the first round. “When I looked at him he kind of looked like Charlie Sheen,” she said. Unfortunately, Charlie was bested by another frog in a run-off contest and he wasn't able to capture a trophy.

James Theriaque walked away with a second-place trophy for the 6 and under age group. Theriaque, with his face painted like Iron Man’s, initially had trouble coaxing his frog to jump. “I blowed on him,” he said. “For a second I didn't know which frog was mine. Then he jumped a couple of feet in front of me.”

Newcomers Gavin and Keaton Hawkins walked away with wins in their age classes. The boys were visiting from Alabama. Keaton crowed about his first-place trophy. Gavin lost first place by inches. His frog made it quickly to the circle edge when it hunkered down and refused to move.  Surely it was a hard but necessary lesson for any frog jumping competitor to learn.

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