Welcome to Rayne, Frog Capital of the World.
When the railroad came to Pouppeville in 1800, the civic leaders decided to change the town's name to Rayne to honor the engineer who laid the tracks.
But it was a trio of Frenchmen who were responsible for the town's amphibious claim to fame. In the 1880s, 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 attention of Jacques and Raymond Weill 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. But two other actions have expanded the emphasis on frogs beyond that of their legs.
In 1946, Rayne's froggy reputation was furthered when the International Rice Festival invited Rayne to host the first Frog Derby. In 1972, the first annual Rayne Frog Festival was held.
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 (who painted murals in photos #4 and #8 presented here).
Some of the murals relate to the work conducted in the building on which they are painted, e.g., the courtroom scene (photo #2 above) on the side of the town's courthouse and the newspaper scene (photo #5) on the town's newspaper's offices.
Others have a humorous tone, such as the scene on the building here (right), featuring two frogs watching duck hunters in the bayou. It is entitled "Glad it's not us" and was painted by local resident Reginald Simoneax.
Walking around Rayne on a hunt for the 30 frog murals makes for an artistic version of "froggin'" (capturing live frogs).