During my tenure at the Los Banos Enterprise and The Paper during the late 1990s, I’d written several stories about the Budweiser frogs that appeared in television commercials and even made a huge splash during the Superbowl.
As it turns out, the inspiration for these unusual corporate sponsors came from Los Banos and a group of dedicated froggers who regularly competed in the Calaveras Frog Jumping Jubilee made famous more than 100 years before by author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. (My favorite quote by him on this subject is: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”)
These froggers pitched the idea of green, jumping pluggers to the beer company — and low and behold the suits went for it. These guys and their mighty frogs even made an appearance on The Tonight Show, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Flashlight in hand, I traveled along miles and miles of canals and irrigation ditches with these folks one night as they searched for the biggest and best jumping frogs to enter in the famous contest and use in exhibitions for happy local youngsters.
Here’s how the frog jumping contest works: The contestant places their frog at the starting line and it makes three jumps — hopefully in a straight line. The contestants can yell, clap and make as much noise as they like, but they can’t touch the frog once they put it at the line. The frog that covers the most distance wins.
The rules are similar at the World Famous Lizard Races held in the South County during Doyle Days. The contestant places the lizard on the starting block and then the rapid runner is timed as it makes it way toward an outside ring. And, as you might expect, the fastest lizard wins. Some of the lizards dart away. Others appear to be completely content to remain at the starting line as long as possible.
While one may not be able to accurately predict which lizard will win the contest, the lizard races are great fun for the youngsters who participate.
I can’t say I’ve ever gone lizard hunting with those hardy folks from Doyle who trudge across the desert and rumble through the sagebrush and boulders gathering up all those lizards. I don’t know how they catch and name so many contenders. My hat’s off to them.
But I can say Doyle Days offers the community an opportunity to celebrate the obvious pride these South County residents feel and want to share.
I attended the Doyle Days celebration last year, and several family members and I had a great time enjoying the sights, sounds and great food sharing a few hours with some mighty friendly folks.
If you’re looking for something to do Aug. 4-5, why not consider Doyle Days? If you’ve got a little one, they’re sure to enjoy a spot in the lizard races. You also might enjoy checking out some of the historic old buildings. And Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson may even spend some time in a dunk tank — talk about fun, golly gee willigers!
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