You may have seen bumper stickers saying, "Keep Austin Weird." There aren't any such mottoes about Louisiana, and that's because weirdness in Louisiana is about as endangered as nutria. On Saturday, Kara and I went to experience some genuine Louisiana weirdness at the Frog Festival in the self-proclaimed Frog Capital of the World, Rayne.
We laughed, we made rude comments amongst ourselves about genetics, we wondered if perhaps we had licked some hallucinogenic frogs.
We arrived in Rayne shortly before a parade was to begin, and were immediately approached by a portly woman asking, "Y'all from around here?" It must have been obvious that we weren't. Not satisfied with our answer that we came from Baton Rouge ("Y'all came all the way from Baton Rouge for the Frog Festival? You should come for the Rice Festival."--It was only an hour away...others we spoke to seemed to consider BR far as well.), she asked again and got to the bottom of where we were really from. Yes: we were definitely out-of- towners in Rayne, and felt constantly aware of that fact, as we didn't escape the notice of many.
Before the parade, we looked around the old-fashioned downtown (complete with real 5 & 10), which I posted about here on my other occasional blog, Disappearing Downtowns, and saw a meat smoker in operation on the back of a moving pickup.
Then the parade began. We were excited to see some beauty queens, of which there turned out to be many. Below was the first float of BQs. They conspicuously ignored our waves for beads or whatever trinkets they were throwing. Like, no question, as if they'd planned it beforehand: full-on small-town snub. That's what we get for being from away! I guess they showed us.
Many more beauty queens followed, including wee Mr. & Miss Toddler Tadpole, and this trio of Miss Raynes inexplicably riding in a duck.
Right behind the duck above, a woman had a seizure and was attended by paramedics while the woman next to her continued collecting beads and candy.
It seemed like every symmetrical teen in town was named Miss Rayne, or else was in the Luxurious Teens dance troupe.
The BQs later continued their moments of glory by wearing their sometimes-towering crowns around the fairgrounds. One such towering crown featured a pig rendered in pink rhinestones.
At parade's end came prisoners to clean up with leaf blowers. Were they real prisoners? I don't even know around here.
At the fairgrounds area, we noticed a continuation of an unfortunate phenomenon spotted in the parade: Kate Gosselin hair! We'd seen a whole float of women sporting the Kate--they might have been hip moms--and here at the fair it was two teen girls with identical Kate 'dos in blonde and brunette. Never a Good Look.
We also noticed rampant, intergenerational evidence of the obesity epidemic we're always hearing about in the news, and that we were the only ones walking the 3/4 mile or so from the street to the fairgrounds, and that the only bicycle passing us en route was motorized.
Alas, we had missed the frog races, and despite the abundant frog murals, sculptures, figurines and trinkets, this is the only real frog we saw in Rayne:
The live music was new country, one of the only genres I loathe (I like to describe it as children's poetry about America set to music), and we were getting cruised by many a festival attendee. After we'd eaten and had enough of the fairgrounds, we spotted the aftermath of a dual shopping cart suicide gone awry. Looks like the carts found out too late that the standing water wasn't deep enough to drown them.
And just a quick stop into the Frog City Bar across the street before leaving.
Only it was happy hour and we met some folks. A guy at the end of the bar sent us drinks, and another fellow, a self described "crazy coonass" came by to tell us that we had to go to Houma for Mardi Gras: "They got two lanes there and they'll throw whole bags of beads at you and knock you right over." Gee, sounds great! His ladyfriend/wife was visibly furious at the attention he paid us, and called him back over to her, then made Crazy Coonass leave.
At some point, probably at the Frog City Bar, Kara declared she wanted to fight a beauty queen. (Never happened, and just as well.)
There, we also met Leeonel. I doubt that's how you spell his name, but trust me, he was no help with the spelling, and despite discussing names extensively with him, since he wasn't good at remembering ours, we're still not even sure if that was his name.
Leeonel was convinced Kara was Chinese. He kept saying to her, "You're sure you're not from China." She does look a bit Chinese in the photo above, so maybe he was on to something.
With everything we'd seen, it was too much. I declared Louisiana the winner on this day.
At Frog City Bar we got word that Bad Company was playing the fairgrounds. I kind of hate Bad Company from what I know of them (i.e. that song where they go "Baaad Cooommmmppannyyyyyyy"), they remind me of songs you'd hear in a beer commercial. But here was our chance to get our already-paid $7 entry fee's worth!
While waiting back at the festival grounds, we went on two rides that whipped us around and upside down at high speeds, then needed to recover for some time after that. Bad Company was relishing their star status in Rayne, arriving in a stretch limo via police escort and making everyone wait. The entrance to the VIP/backstage area had a small throng of onlookers/ non-VIPs around it. Finally, Bad Co. came on. We immediately wanted to leave. We'd gotten our money's worth.
Oh yeah-- and the guitarist of Bad Co. had the Kate hairdon't.