SPRINGFIELD – My earliest memory, at age 3 or 4, of the annual Governor’s Frog Jump and Egg Strike in Springfield was being ecstatic to the point of jumping up and down myself at my late Grandma Hattie Baxley and my Ninny, my late Great Aunt Evelyn, her sister, finding a bullfrog for me to jump in the competition.

But the bullfrog ended up being like the Warner Brothers cartoon character, Michigan J. Frog, saying “BA-RUP!” in front of the audience and doing little else.

The medium-sized hunter green bullfrog, obtained by my relatives who had grown up in Hilda but moved to Barnwell and lived there in early adulthood through their senior years, seemed vibrant around me before the competition. Nevertheless, proverbial appearances doth deceive.

My Grandma and Ninny, who loved to travel throughout the S.C. Lowcountry and Midlands counties, doted on me with treats from the deep freeze in the shed and baked goods, helped raise me, and did things for me like getting me fishing tackle and teaching me to fish at Grandma’s pond. They also found the aforementioned bullfrog for me as quickly as they did the snapping turtles they would catch when too many ate fish off of their lines (my Grandma would leave these for town garbage men who asked her for them to make turtle stew).

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As per senior citizen ladies being in charge of my fishing education, my grandfathers (except for one great grandfather) had passed away on all sides of my family, and my father was busy working two or three jobs at a time to support us. Also, my Mom was working as a beautician and eventually worked in my Dad’s businesses.

Therefore, my Grandma and Ninny, who I grew up next door to and who shared a house like “The Golden Girls,” looked after me and taught me things some may have thought males might have. I even learned how to clean fish from them and many other things, including some things about gardening.

I even observed some things related to firearms. For example, my Grandma Hattie was a crack-shot and could kill a snake with a rifle clear across the massive floral gardens she tended to and also gave me a lot of advice about life and scripture. (As my senior relatives helped me, I also did my best to help them. I helped them with yard work at varying ages, including pulling and dragging limbs in their yards and orchards, cutting grass on a riding mower from age 10 on forward in their lawns, and raking leaves there as well. My senior citizen relatives also took me places like the Springfield Flea Market, the antique store in Springfield, and what was once Giant Food World (now Piggly Wiggly) in Neeses and the produce market, various markets, and stores in Orangeburg and beyond.)

Anyway, the bullfrog they caught, who I named Froggy, jumped energetically around my Grandma’s pecan orchard when I practiced with him. Maybe Froggy had then eaten some of those few, smaller pecans which had not been picked up for Christmas goodies or to sell for extra cash at the feed and seed in Denmark or Barnwell – those very few which had been left behind and had not been mowed over. Because, later, at the Springfield Frog Jump, Froggy ended up being as sedentary as Mark Twain’s famous jumping frog of Calaveras County when it was filled with buckshot. He was as slow to move, as Twain may have put it, as some congressmen (not you, Mr. Clyburn).

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Anyway, when the jump competition started, “Froggy” just sort of sat there and did a belch-like ribbit – even with me pounding the ground behind him (touching the frog is grounds for disqualification). “Froggy” was one of the more docile frogs from near my Grandma’s private pond and may not have been as exercised as those in the currents of the Edisto River, which are the ones seasoned frog jumpers look for. (Not that I would have done this because it did not exist in the late ’70s, and I was not cruel to animals and do not condone nor recommend it. But now I wonder if a drink of Red Bull would have sparked Froggy on. Maybe a drink of “Red Bullfrog” would have invigorated him. Red Bullfrog gives a frog’s legs wings! Makes them into a virtual Mercury. You get the message. But don’t do it. They may conduct Redbull or Red Bullfrog testing at this year’s competition.)

Anyway, I felt like the construction worker in the Warner Brothers cartoon who had stumbled upon the singing frog in the box. Like that one but in a different way, my frog would not perform. Despite all of that, I had a great time, and participating in the frog jump is seared in my memory. In fact, sometimes the truth is the opposite of the old adage. Sometimes, it is the destination and not the journey (of the bullfrog) that matters. And the Governor’s Frog Jump and Egg Strike in Springfield, S.C. will definitely be a destination for many on Easter weekend each year.

After a respite during the pandemic, the Governor’s Frog Jump and Egg Strike is coming Easter weekend, Good Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16. There is a beauty pageant that happens before it on Saturday, March 26, at 4 p.m. (contact the Town Hall for more information). A bingo game will happen Thursday, April 14, at a location to be determined. A street dance will happen Friday night, April 15, from 7 p.m.-midnight.

A carnival will be open all day on Saturday, April 16, and a T-shirt booth and country story will open there at 8 a.m. Arts and crafts areas will open up at 9 a.m. The Frog Jump parade lineup will start from 9-10:30 a.m., and the Frog Jump Parade will start at 11 a.m.

I have vague recollections of giant green frogs on floats from when I was a kid and, of course, remember many frogs and other green decorations on floats during my approximate four previous years of covering the Frog Jump. Seeing fancy tiaras and dresses among all that green makes one think of frog princesses (not frog princes) being turned into beauties. There is so much green shown via the frogs in store windows and on floats in the town that one begins to think they are having a late St. Patrick’s Day celebration. But the verdant views in the town are quite appropriate for the festival in the spring season.

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Speaking of the spring season, the Children’s Easter Egg Hunt will happen Saturday, April 16, at noon at Springfield Methodist Church in anticipation of Easter Sunday on Sunday, April 17. The goody-filled, shiny plastic eggs are all colors of the rainbow and add extra splashes of color to the green grass of the church lawn and green frog decorations seen everywhere else in the town. The screams of joys of the children as they rush toward the eggs are louder than the chirps of the frogs which will later be heard. During that part of the festivities, the children rush as quickly as the ones in the end of the film “Steel Magnolias.” And the little town is a close-knit one just like in that play and film.

By the way, entertainment at noon at the Frog Jump Arena is to be determined. In the past, cloggers and singers have been part of the entertainment during that part of the festivities.

From noon-1:30 p.m. on that Saturday, Egg Strike registration will occur with the Egg Strike competition starting promptly at 1:30 p.m. Within this, I learned during my years of coverage, participants take turns striking another person’s egg with the pointy yet rounded top of theirs until one breaks and is eliminated and so on and so forth. People value the types of boiled eggs they use for the Egg Strike.

Some want fresh laid, others want store-bought. Different individuals have views on how fresh the eggs one boils should be for the Egg Strike. Had my Grandma and Ninny provided eggs for me, they would have been fresh ones from hens they had – hens I quickly learned not to pick up the chicks from when they were allowed to have them. (I had the beak scar to prove it.)

Secrets and techniques refined through the decades are a part of this tradition.

By the way, I do not recall participating in that part of the event when I was a young child. However, I soon learned during my approximate four years of covering the event in my forties that the egg strikes date back to ancient times — probably as far back as the ancient Greeks and/or Greek orthodoxy. The eggs were often dyed red, and there was symbolism tied in with the blood of Christ from the crucifixion and the stone that was moved from Christ’s tomb from what I read and heard in years past.

For those that have their own aspiring “Froggy,” Frog Jump registration is at 2 p.m., and the jump will occur at 2:30 p.m. The completion can be a bit fierce yet lighthearted at the same time. People come from all around with their bullfrogs chirping in buckets and coolers, trying to keep them moist in what is usually a warm spring afternoon for the event. There can be some mild ribbing (or even ribbiting) and a little cleaned-up athletic trash talk as the competition starts – particularly among the adults. As with the Egg Strike, each participant has his or her own strategy. Some thump on the ground behind the frog. Others yell at their amphibian contestants. (The children or youth have usually been guided what to do by the adults.)

I cannot recall if this is allowed but seem to remember some doing it in the past (ask the judge or judges), but I think I have even seen people pouring bottled water on, in front of, or behind their bullfrogs during the competition to encourage jumping. I do, again, know there are stipulations that people should not touch their frogs (if they do, they risk disqualification). And the frogs are allowed only so many jumps – the distances of which are measured and added. The greatest distance wins.

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Rain will sometimes delay the competition itself, but it is usually held promptly at 2 p.m. and will usually be held even with a little drizzle or later in the day if there is only mild inclement weather.

The carnival (rides and fair food) can be enjoyed in the times between the major events on Saturday. What I am about to mention, by the way, was not at the Frog Jump, where I just have vague recollections of some fair food such as elephant ears, and I have seen kids and adults winning prizes from carnival games there and riding rides. But when I was a young child, my aforementioned feisty Ninny once got me a giant stuffed bear from a carnival the easy or hard way depending on your perspective (it may have been at the Firemen’s Fun Festival back in her hometown of Hilda or could have even been at the State Fair or other local fair).

Anyway, I kept picking up rubber ducks in a rubber duck floating game (the kind where a certain winning number was under the duck) near a building with posts on it and asking for more money from Ninny each time because I could not ever seem to win anything. The rubber ducks kept floating on by in a little faux stream in a plastic trough with a pump. My Ninny, seeing what was going on, adjusted her curly hair and red attire, and spoke with the carnival barker.

(Ninny loved the color red. She had a red Mercury car, a red rotary phone, burgundy clothing and vermillion lipstick. A former owner of the antique store in Springfield, long before the late councilman owner and even longer before the Carson family, once told her, “I sure do like those red shoes you wear.” Ninny could have the passion for life that came with the color red and not in the negative sense of that. She also loved to sing songs from around World War II and beyond from the Andrews Sisters to ones she considered modern like those from Elvis. But in her fury, she was not singing that day.)

Where my late grandmother actually had red Scots-Irish hair, my Ninny, who had peppery brown hair, had more of the stereotypical red-headed temper. She leaned in at the carnival barker, her eyes further magnified by her octagonal-lensed glasses, “You’re going to show us every #$!% one of those ducks!” The barker did, and the winning number was not under any of them! And I ended up being given a gigantic stuffed teddy bear as “hush cuddly.”

Expect the carnival games at the modern Springfield Frog Festival to be more fair than those in other towns of yesteryear. The sheer number of won stuffed animals and other prizes I saw in the hands of kids and families in past years there spoke volumes. As did the smiles of kids and their parents on rides and enjoying the festivities.

The event is one that locals turn into family reunions down at the town parks and near the fairgrounds. It is one that draws people from all over the state and, at times, from all over the country and maybe even the world. It is a quaint throwback to the good old days while also being an enjoyable modern time with lots of entertainment.

In fact, the entertainment on Saturday evening, April 16, will be from 7-10 p.m. with a curfew at 10 p.m.

After being allowed to enjoy either some cotton candy or an elephant ear so as not to spoil my dinner at Frog Jump, I remember my Grandma and Ninny taking me to the restaurant of what was Giant Food World (and is now Fogle’s Piggly Wiggly) in nearby Neeses. This was a real treat then and almost as good as the vegetable soup, fried chicken and other things my Grandma Hattie made at home (the few times I saw her pluck and kill a chicken to fry for lunch or supper made me a little queasy, but I was a big boy and liked to eat).

At the Giant Food World restaurant, we would either have their signature fried chicken with sides (still available) or, if Grandma and Ninny were feeling especially generous, we would pick out our own steak from the little cooler near the restaurant to be cooked for us (a tradition which still continues at the restaurant which is in Piggly Wiggly now and even managed to survive a fire the past few years).

To end our day, my Grandma, Ninny, and I would enjoy a meal in one of “The Giant’s” earth-tone colored booths among the butcher paper announcements of specials. I still stop by there occasionally during my coverage of other towns in western Orangeburg County.

Those were the good ol’ days, as they say, and they can be the good, new days with your family and you as you enjoy this year’s Springfield Governor’s Frog Jump and Egg Strike and all western Orangeburg County has to offer.

For more information, see http://www.springfieldsc.com/governors-frog-jump/.

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