A very peculiar type of athletics competition is taking place in Lokve on April 29th, 2017: the 41st edition of the Frog Jumping Championship.
This local tradition was established back in 1975 when the residents of Lokve, a small town in Gorski kotar county, finally grew tired of being mocked for their tiny cohabitants – frogs residing in nearby lakes. When a town’s name literally translates to ponds, it’s easy to imagine the number of frogs cheerfully croaking in unison on a daily basis. This resulted with the locals getting named “the frog people” (žabari), a long-running joke they decided to turn in their favour. Nowadays, the frog jumping contest represents a beloved local tradition called The Frog’s Night (Žabarska noć) that usually takes place in May or at the end of April and attracts a large number of visitors and participants from all parts of Croatia. It’s also a very good example on how to turn a local pun into a weekend-long event which as a rule fills up all the accommodating units available in town.
The frog jumping championship includes separate contests for children and adults, all of them being equally enthusiastic. Back in the 70s, the participants were able to bring their own frogs; these days we take athletics more seriously so the competing frogs are picked out prior to the contest and handed out to the participants, giving them no chance to cheat and practice at home. According to a regulation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, the competing jumpers are required to be either common brown frogs or common toads, the latter not being particularly popular due to their unwillingness to cooperate.
The frogs are placed in the middle of a board with circular track markings and the one that jumps the largest distance ends up as the winner. The contestants have a mind of their own and often decide to chill on their starting spot, unfazed, while their temporary coaches are pleading with them to move. As the participants are not allowed to touch their frogs or encourage them in any way except cheering, the event is likely to turn into an exceptionally amusing show. The winners usually jump the distance of about a metre.
This year’s competition takes place on Saturday, April 29th at 2 PM which marks the start of the 24th Frog Jumping Championship for kids, while the adult category starts at 6.30 PM. The contest is followed by a live show by the Croatian singer Damir Kedžo at 10 PM, and accompanied by a dinner whose main course consists of a local specialty – frog legs. The stakes in the athletics world seem to be getting out of hand.
Image source: Visit Kvarner Facebook