08/05/12 — Hop, skip and croak: Toads for a cause

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Hop, skip and croak: Toads for a cause

By John Joyce
Published in News on August 5, 2012 1:50 AM

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Goliath Wendell, 15, prods his race frog forward as he battles against Connor Bauer, 9, and others during the Tournament of Toads at Stepping Stones Stables in Pikeville Saturday afternoon. The race featured six heats of qualifying, with the winner of each heat advancing to the final.

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Jonah Harrell, 6, uses a wooden rod to move his toad forward as he races against Julia Craus, 7.

And they're off.

The first ever Ken-Toady Derby is under way.

Hopping into first place is No. 20 in Lane 3, followed closely by No. 14 in Lane 4.

A battle begins as No. 26 makes his move, and 20 and 14 fight for position.

Spectators jump out of their seats as the field heads for home.

No clear winner, no sure thing -- this one goes down to the wire.

And in the end, it's No. 20 who claims the top prize -- by a croak.


The contestants ranged in age from 3 to 70 -- the people, not the toads, that is -- at Stepping Stones in Pikeville as the therapeutic riding stable held its first-ever Tournament of Toads Saturday.

"Our goal was to have 20 contestants and to raise $200," said Jana Foote Stepping Stones program director and toad race coordinator.

But they did a lot better than that.

"We had more than 35 contestants and raised $460," she said.

And that will be more than enough to do some of the improvements Ms. Foote had hoped to fund at the not-for-profit stable -- new rubber mats for the aisle and leveling and matting the dirt floor, necessary so that Stepping Stones' clientele, local disabled children and adults, can access the horses, donkeys and mini-horses.

Families braved the heat and had plenty of hand sanitizer ready when they turned out to the stables to support the fundraiser.

Colby Hooks, 10, and his champion racing toad, "The Wonderful Two," took first place in the final race to win the championship.

The seriously silly fundraiser included everything conceivably toad-related, and some treats as well.

"We even have 'toadly' concessions," said 11-year-old Jacob Bauer, the mastermind behind what those in the know called the "toadally toadrific" event.

"We have toadgurt, toad juice, toad legs and blended toad ices," he said.

Jacob, a soon-to-be sixth grader, is one smart toad wrangler. He caught, tagged and released his own toad and monitored him over several weeks. He learned about toad ecology, biology and physiology.

Then, all that was left was to find a way to get the chance to put his skills to competitive use.

"For a year-and-a-half, he wanted to have a toad race," Ms. Foote said. "We finally decided to put it together, and it turned out great."

And now, it is likely to become an annual event.

Jacob, who wants to be a marine biologist, an astronaut or a geological space miner when he grows up, isn't discouraged in the least bit that his steed, "The Red Toad," didn't win.

He is already planning his race for the second annual Tournament of Toads.