Follies Grenouilles / Frog Follies

Jump (your frogs) into summer

The inaugural Frog Follies festival was marked by a (brief) royal visit in 1970. It was launched to celebrate St-Pierre-Jolys’ francophone heritage, which is how the frogs came in.

“We’re poking fun at the fact that we’re a French community,” Barney Morin, one of the organizers of the Frog Follies, says. “The Queen was visiting St-Pierre almost 50 years ago, and they wanted her to remember her time in St-Pierre-Jolys.”

The festival’s titular frog is not just any leaping amphibian - festival attendees catch, release and competitively jockey hundreds of Northern Leopard Frogs, which are greenish-brown and spotted. Each frog has a distinctive spot pattern, so like a snowflake, no two are alike.

Prior to the Follies, organizers hold the Great Canadian Frog Hunt at a secret location. Participants of the Canadian National Frog Jumping Championships may bring their own frogs (provided it is caught and released respectfully) or choose one from a barrel.

Frogs must be named and assigned a jockey.

“Over 300 frog jockeys register each year with many who bring their own frogs raised at home,” Morin says. I can’t wait to get to the final of the Canadian Frog Jumping Championship. (It’s my) summer highlight.”

On their website, the festival encourages firm but careful handling of the frogs and stresses that they are stored in frog-friendly conditions.

“The frogs are an important part of the local ecosystem, and we wouldn’t want to cause an imbalance,” Morin says.

Alongside frogs, the Follies hosts music on the main stage, a Bingo tournament, and a Slo-Pitch tournament - in two languages.

“Our whole event is bilingual from the entertainment to our atmosphere. It gives Manitobans a chance to soak up francophone culture in a non-academic setting,” Morin says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 31, 2018)

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