Barring a surprise snake attack, there will be no frog shortage for Saturday’s annual Mayor’s Frog Jump – the best part of the Come-See-Me festival because no adults are allowed to ruin it.
Seventy-two jumbo jumping frogs – minus one that arrived belly-up – have arrived in Rock Hill for the jump that draws hundreds of kids to Cherry Park.
“I got a favorite already – I call her Big Mama,” said the little kid in charge of safekeeping the frogs this year, 11-year-old Anderson Kirk.
He held up Big Mama.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
He put Big Mama on his shoulder.
He looked at Big Mama.
“Now wait just one minute,” said the actual Big Mama, Anderson’s momma, Amelia Anderson-Sprouse, who is not big at all and is the volunteer in charge of this year’s frog jump event – and who will drive Anderson to the event if he wants to get there.
In some past years – including last year – the frogs showed up within just a few hours of the jump after shortages caused by greedy French chefs, mean old biology teachers who help teens torture frogs in the name of academia, gunshots in foreign countries that supply frogs, droughts, and other crises that involve adults trying to take away kids’ fun.
One year, the only frogs to be had were small, shrimpy frogs. This year, jumbo was all that was available, and jumbo is better anyway.
Back in 2001, a frog shortage even made the news all over the world on the BBC.
The jump – from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday – annually attracts hundreds of kids 12 and younger to Cherry Park. It is the most famous frog jump in America outside of the one in California made famous by Mark Twain. But Twain is long dead, so ours is better.
Despite having a politician’s office attached to the event in Rock Hill, the frog jump is free and untaxed, and no politician has ever stolen the trophy from a kid’s clutches.
The trophy for the winner is a big, huge frog – about the same size as a basketball, a politician’s ego or a mother-in-law’s cosmetics bag.
The frogs arrived in boxes late Wednesday via special delivery from Carolina Biological Supply in Burlington, N.C., with about 60 hours to spare.
The job of getting the frogs here, held by Joel Talley for a dozen years of volunteering his time and energy and kids, fell this year to Anderson-Sprouse, who didn’t recall it in her job description but took the task anyway because kids deserve it. Davie Lindsey, another volunteer and team leader for frogs, helped coordinate this year’s jump.
Anderson-Sprouse took no chances and ordered weeks in advance.
“I have helped with the jump in past years, and halfway through the event, some of those little frogs just sit there, and the kids are asking why their frog won’t jump,” Anderson-Sprouse said.
“These big ones should have plenty of energy – except the one guy who was DOA.”
An astonished receptionist at Anderson-Sprouse’s employer, the telephone company, called her to say, “Umm, there’s frogs here for you.”
Anderson-Sprouse raced to the front desk, retrieved the frogs, grabbed her husband’s drill out of a toolbox and drilled some air holes in four plastic storage bins.
She then rushed to Winthrop Lake, looked around to make sure nobody was watching, and filled the tubs with real York County pond water.
No hose water for her frogs.
She threw in a little moss and a piece of old log for effect, and grabbed a few handfuls of real mud and muck.
“Right at home,” said Anderson, who is a fifth-grader at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School, so he knows frogs and dirt. “I came in fifth last year.”
Thursday morning, the frogs were served their first Rock Hill meal – real live crickets from a bait shop. The crickets were apparently delicious, as the frogs ate every one and climbed over one another for seconds.
The frogs were then held out for inspection.
Big Mama was there. Big Papa – who is a father and therefore lazy – refused to jump. There were greenish frogs and brownish frogs and spotted frogs and some that seemed to have stripes.
Certainly kids are encouraged to catch and bring a frog to Saturday’s jump, but with 70 frogs ready, these jumpers should not be too tired.
And yes, all the frogs that survive Saturday’s jumps are released into the wild afterward. No frog-leg dinners. No dissections at the high school. These frogs know freedom beckons.
“First,” said Anderson-Sprouse, “these frogs must jump.”