People jumped at the chance to cram into the steamy Farm Bureau Building.
That’s where athletes with names such as Rhino, He-Man, Big Belly Malley and Butters Jr. squared off Tuesday in one of the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair’s most popular events — the frog jumping contest.
Eighty-four children between ages 1 and 12 each brought a frog to the competition, as well as a bag of tricks.
Contestants tried everything from blowing on the amphibians to smacking the ground with their palms or a towel to get a good jump.
The techniques seemed to work sometimes. A few frogs needed no prodding at all. But others just seemed bored by the whole affair.
One of the younger entrants, 3-year-old Abigail Megel, and her frog Hoppy were declared the champions with Hoppy’s final jump of 70 inches.
“I found him at Mamaw and Papaw’s house,” said Abigail, whose parents Adam and Lauren Megel watched with pride. “I got a huge one.”
Not every frog was as competition-ready as Abigail’s Hoppy, however. One called Dasher was among those that spent their entire minute of competition sitting on the mat.
Fair Princess Payton Koontz and Miss Congeniality Rachael Maurer got the competition started with their unofficial entrant.
Despite encouragement from the fair queen and her court, the unnamed and undersized contestant managed to jump just a few inches.
“I got him from the front of my barn this morning,” Maurer said. “I’ve always been told by previous queens that the small ones are the good ones.”
The frogs ranged in size from the very large to the very small and in color from every shade of green to yellow, brown and almost black.
Each frog was given up to one minute to execute three jumps, timed meticulously by Bartholomew County Councilman Jorge Morales.
“We take this competition very seriously,” Morales said, laughing.
Bartholomew County farmer Bill Lentz and DeWayne Hines, a member of the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals, measured the jumps. Hines’ wife, Tami Hines, the Bartholomew County clerk, kept track of the distances.
“We can’t do this for a living, so we have to have a day job, too,” Lentz said. “But all of the judges’ decisions are final.”
Besides Abigail Megel, two other age-group winners won $15 each and a chance to compete in the finals.
Joshua Conrad won the 5-to-9-year age group with Jerry — who had the longest jump of the night at 93.5 inches. But Jerry the frog could not duplicate the effort in the finals.
The Conrad family, from Elizabethtown, was well represented as Kaitlyn and Jacob Conrad, Joshua’s siblings, and a cousin, Kole Shewmaker, also finished in the top three in their age groups.
The Conrad children’s mother, Kristi Conrad, won the competition 35 years ago and was happy to see her children keep the family’s winning tradition alive.
“Everyone in our family was involved in the fair in some way when we were growing up,” she said.
Alexa Weisner, who won the 10-to-12 age group, also had multigenerational support.
Her mom, Cindy Weisner, a longtime fair supporter, and grandparents Linda and Bill Carothers, who attended the county’s first fair in 1957, were among those rooting for her.
“We come to watch the contest every year,” said Bill Carothers, who had six grandchildren in the contest.
Frog jumpers that didn’t win this year can try again next year. And Abigail Megel said she will be back to defend her title.
She will have to find a new partner, however. Shortly after his final jump, Hoppy made a break for it, and was a no-show for the trophy presentation.