RAYNE, LA (WVUE) - It seems that everywhere you look in the Cajun town of Rayne, you see frogs. They're on the sidewalks, in front of stores, the police station and fire house, and the court house. And about two dozen frog murals are painted on the sides of buildings.
"We are quite proud of the fact that we are the frog capital of the world," Fran Bihm said.
Bihm, with the Chamber of Commerce, credits Jacques Weil and his brothers with starting a frog export business in the late 1800s.
"They started a frog shipping company to export frogs back to the restaurants in France to serve as a delicacy of fried frog legs," Bihm said.
The frog export companies are gone, but not the frogs.
"That's a big one! Look how fat," said Jacob Zaunbrecher.
For Laken Bischoff and fiance Zaunbrecher, this is a perfect date night.
"Since I was a little girl my dad would always bring me," said Bischoff.
What's the secret to catching them?
"I can't let it get away. Firm grip," Bischoff said.
And Zaunbrecher has the perfect partner.
"It's quite nice whenever you can sit back and relax and just point the spotlight knowing that, I mean you saw her miss one time tonight and like I said that a rare occurrence," he said.
The frogs hang out along the edges of commercial crawfish ponds. Their white throats give them away in the spotlight. And within seconds, the frogs are snatched from the snake-infested water.
So what's a good night of frogging?
"Hundreds," Zaunbrecher said. "When you get in the triple digits you could say it's definitely a successful night hands down."
"This one is probably the biggest," Bischoff said. "It's full of crawfish."
And there is one other claim to frog fame. Two decades before NASA had frogs floating in a space shuttle, two bullfrogs from Rayne made a giant leap into orbit in 1970. NASA strapped the frogs inside a tiny capsule to test the effect of weightlessness on their ears, which are very similar to those of humans. The test was a success, and NASA said goodbye to the Cajun frogs.
Rayne has been celebrating its amphibian history with an annual frog festival, where beauty queens pose with frogs, there are frog races and jumping contests, and special food.
"I like my frogs - fried frog legs," Bihm said.
It's part of the unique history and flavor that has made Rayne the frog capital of the world.
The 45th annual Rayne Frog Festival is coming up later this month, May 11 through 13. And if you want to participate in the frog races, you don't need to bring your own. The festival has frogs available for rent.