The History and Happenings of the Rayne Frog Festival
Learn More about the Frog Capital of the World
Drive two-and-a-half hours west of New Orleans,and you’ll hit Rayne, Louisiana, also known as “the frog capital of the world.” The little Cajun town has a population of about 8,000 as well as a big obsession with frogs.
Is your interest piqued? Well, lucky for you, the Rayne Frog Festival is happening soon. Ever seen a frog derby? Want to try frog legs? The Frog Festival is the place to check out all things froggy, as well as loads of other fun activities.
Rayne’s Frog Industry Beginnings
In the 1880’s, Donat Pucheu, a Frenchman, chef, and adventurer, made his way to Louisiana and spent some time in Rayne. He noticed how plentiful the local bullfrog population was, so he started capturing them and selling them to New Orleans restaurants.
In France, frog legs have been consumed since at least the 12th century, and records show that the Chinese have been eating them since the first century. They were very popular with Catholic French monks, who considered them “fish” and could, therefore, eat them on meatless Fridays.
At the cusp of the 20th century, frog legs were a new and exciting delicacy in the US. Rayne’s frogs were so delectable, so juicy and muscular, that word spread quickly. A couple of brothers from France (the Weills Brothers) got into the business of Rayne frog legs, and for many decades, Rayne frogs were exported to restaurants all over the US, including fancy New York restaurants, and even internationally, to France.
The Louisiana Frog Company
By the 1940’s, the Rayne-based Louisiana Frog Company Plant was the largest exporter of live frogs, for gastronomic purposes, in the world. In 1937 alone, it shipped over half a million frogs. Some days, the company’s hunters and suppliers brought in 10,000 frogs. The largest ever weighed 3 lbs.! The Louisiana Frog Company was also known for its canned “Frog a la sauce Piquante.” The company included a branch that sold hand-caught (so as not to damage them!) frogs for breeding purposes. These frogs are Rana Catesbiana, commonly known as the American Bullfrog. But the giant variety found in the south are called Louisiana Jumbo Bullfrog.
Revitalizing the Industry
In 1946, Rayne hosted its first frog derby, where young women dressed frogs up as jockeys and raced them. But in the 1970’s, the frog trade was in steep decline. To uphold its reputation as the frog capital, Rayne locals decided to expand the Frog Derby into the town’s first Frog Festival. Hundreds of locals came out to the first Rayne Frog Festival, in 1973, and they still show up today. (Some of them have come every single year, for 46 years.) And eventually, frog murals started popping up all over town, so that Rayne can celebrate its froggy heritage year-round.
Festival Events & Activities
The Frog Festival is part county fair, with local food vendors and rides, and part French Acadian cultural exposition, with three full days packed with live music, and much of it Cajun. And of course, there are plenty of frog legs to eat!
Local high school artists compete to have their artwork become the festival poster, vendors sell crafts, the frog derby is still going strong, there is always a frog cook-off, a frog-jumping contest, a dance contest, a grand parade, and Frog Festival pageants. It’s a highly unique, full-weekend festival that is definitely worth a quick deviation off the beaten path (or, ahem, off of I-10).
Attend the 2019 Rayne Frog Festival
This year’s festival will be held May 8-11th, 2019 with a “full schedule of music, delicious food and drinks, signature events such as frog racing and jumping, selection of the Rayne Lions Club Derby Queen, Diaper Derby, Arts & Crafts show, Frog Cookoff, Frog Eating Contest, Dance Contest, Free Kids Area with live frogs, and the Grand Parade.”