The 2018 Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee brought out more than 30,000 people for a weekend of competition, entertainment and exhibitions, but the event was tinged with tragedy by the unexpected death of the 2014 Frog Jump champion, a finalist in this year’s jump.

On Sunday during the finals of the 2018 Frog Jump, a 60-second moment of silence was observed for Casey Nash, 24, who died unexpectedly on Saturday. Nash, who won the 2014 Frog Jump, qualified for this year’s finals with a 19-foot-4-inch jump on Friday, his mother, Shana Nash, 51, said.

“He was so excited when he won. He took his trophy, which was three feet tall, and he walked through the entire fair with it that night in his hands,” she said. “He knows it’s not easy to do. He was extremely excited and he was hopeful again this year.”

Participation in the Frog Jump was not just a tradition for Casey Nash, his mother said, it was a lifestyle.

His grandfather, Gerry Heintz, had initiated the tradition with the family, she said. Casey Nash had been involved with the event “since he was an infant” and first competed when he was 4.

The frog jumps were formative events of his childhood, she added, and each year, Casey, his father, and his uncle would go frogging before choosing the ones they wanted to qualify with.

Laurie Giannini, CEO of the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, said that Casey Nash was not only known as an avid participant of the frog jump, but an annual competitor always in the running to take the top prize.

“He loved the frog jump and he was really good at it,” she said.

When the time came for Casey Nash’s slot among the top 50 finalists, a 60-second moment of silence was observed to honor his history at the event, she said.

“We just thought it was appropriate to recognize it and then move on, because he would have wanted us to have the best fair and frog jump we could possibly have.”

Shana said her family, which included Casey Nash’s father Michael, 56, and sister Raychel, 20, were not able to attend the moment of silence, but they received multiple consolations from friends and attendees.

“We found it very heartwarming,” she said. “At a time that is just so devastating to us, it does bring some kind of comfort. It's nice to know that people loved and respected him as much as we did. It just shows what kind of character he was.”

On Sunday, the American flag was flown at half-staff in dedication to Casey Nash. Following the moment of silence, a speaker said to the crowd, “We know you are forever chasing frogs in the sky.”
Shana Nash said the family still did not know the cause of death and were developing plans for services.

Besides the tragedy of Casey Nash’s death, Giannini said, the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee was a resounding success.

“The weather was great, the people were happy and it was just a wonderful atmosphere all weekend long,” she said.

Laura Kitchell with her frog Reckless, a part of the Frog Jump Jockeys, took first place in the event with a jump of 19 feet 4.5 inches.

Notable moments of the fair included the California Highway Patrol mounted unit, the Junior Livestock Auction which raised more than $600,000, as well as the rodeo, she said.

An emphasis on increased “family entertainment” was a singular focus for the fair in 2018, she said.

Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio was also selected by raffle to drive the Friends of the Calaveras Fair derby car during the demolition derby.

The total attendance for the weekend has yet to be audited, she said, but it was “pretty much the same as last year.”

According to Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office logs five arrests were made on Saturday and Sunday for disorderly conduct at Frogtown Road in Angels Camp.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.