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FROG CITY: Rayne, Louisiana "Frog X-ing"

Story and photos by Amy Snyder

What is it about frogs that captivates our imagination? In a small town in the middle of Louisiana's Cajun prairie, a stone's throw from New Orleans, is a town called Rayne, where frogs have gained iconographic stature. Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s, when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants. Word of Rayne's frog delicacies spread like wildfire, and soon attracted the Weill Brothers from France, who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants like Sardi's in New York boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana.


The success of the Weill Brothers business helped put Rayne on the map as the Frog Capital of the World. In 1946, Rayne's froggy reputation was furthered when the International Rice Festival invited Rayne to host the first Frog Derby, an event where the prettiest women in town dressed frogs up in jockey uniforms and raced them. This event continues today; if you happen to be in the area on Labor Day weekend, you can still see it as part of Rayne's annual Frog Festival.

Rayne no longer exports frogs, but their frog identity is bigger than ever because of a unique array of frog murals. What started as a project initiated by Pat Brignac and Kay Cunningham on the Rayne Beautification Board has turned into a tradition of commissioned murals by artist Robert Dafford. The following photographs were taken while on a walk down the quaint streets of Rayne, where frogs are painted on everything -- from a tree to the walls of the local five-and-dime.


This photo-montage shows a series of murals that combine to make a frog-themed "Main Street" in downtown Rayne. The murals were a joint community project designed by Kay Cunningham and Pat Brignac and painted by the people of Rayne. [Click to see larger images: 47k file or 97k file.]


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