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Frog Fest kicks off with T-shirts, food, and fun in the Waynesville park
Frog Fest kicks off with T-shirts, food, and fun in the Waynesville park

Waynesville's Frog Queen Rhea Anne Mathews will "rain" over the festival until 6 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (May 2, 2009) — Frog Fest began Saturday in Waynesville under overcast rather than rainy skies, and temperatures by mid-afternoon only reached into the mid-60s.

The festival’s Frog Queen, Rhea Anne Mathews, had a simple message for her helpers:

“I’m so hoppy to be here,” Mathews said. “It’s great to be ‘raining’ over such a wonderful group.”

Mathews, who has been a volunteer with Frog Fest since the event began a dozen years ago, is also a volunteer with the Pulaski Fine Arts Association, which sponsors community theater plays in downtown Waynesville.

“We wanted to do something for Frog Fest, and one of the ladies said, ‘If we get a frog costume, I wonder who would wear it?’ and looked at me,” Mathews said. “I’ve been with it since the very beginning so to me this is just natural.”

While hundreds and sometimes thousands of people attend each year, Mathews said getting enough volunteers to put the festival on each year is challenging.

“We get volunteers each year, but often they either move out of the area or have something else going on and can’t spend the time with us,” Mathews said. “Our activities are confined to just about two or three months worth of getting everything organized, but it’s really a lot of fun and it’s a good community activity considering that we give funds back to local charities.”

Fundraising comes from many different sources, ranging from vendors in the park to sales of T-shirts. Carol Welch, Waynesville’s assistant city clerk, said she has many shirts to sell from prior years, each of which have their own theme.

Welch got on the park’s speaker system in early afternoon and reminded guilty-minded sons that they could purchase a gift from her.

“Mother’s Day is coming up! Who would not want one of these shirts for mother?” Welch called out. “Come and get one and end your shopping day in good conscience!”

Welch, who jokes that she is “only a tadpole” because she’s been on the Frog Fest committee only six of the last dozen years since the festival started, said she has a wide variety of Frog Fest shirts available.

“A lot of people collect these T-shirts and a lot of people collect these T-shirts and some of them they may be missing. With Mothers’ Day next weekend, it’s just a handy gift item,” Welch said. “We’re really pleased with the turnout we’ve had today. We were afraid the weather might keep people away, but we’re doing well.”

Rain-soaked ground hasn’t been a problem for drivers or pedestrians, Welch said, but vendors have been asked to keep their heavier equipment off the grassy areas of the park.

“We didn’t want to risk putting them on the grass and tearing up the grass or the utility lines that we we just put in this year,” Welch said.

Welch’s comment referred to major work done last year following flooding that damaged or destroyed many of the city park’s improvements, including its electrical system.

In addition to the bands — which this year are local — and food and craft vendors, Saturday’s events included a 1 p.m. Frog Race in Roubidoux Creek sponsored by the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce and a 2 p.m. piñata-breaking event. At 5 p.m., the winner of the kiss-a-frog contest will be announced, with either Sheriff J.B. King, Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Rachelle Beasley or St. Robert City Administrator Alan Clark being required to kiss a frog, depending on which of the three receives the most donations in canisters left around town.

Events for Saturday conclude at 6 p.m., resuming at noon on Sunday.

A silent auction is underway and will end at 2 p.m. Sunday. Events tomorrow include a 1:30 p.m. piñata breaking.

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