Philip married then Princess Elizabeth in 1947. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history and, in his role, made many trips to Canada.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said on Friday that Philip was in direct contact with thousands of Manitobans from his first visit in 1951 to his last in 2010.
Gagné was a child when the royal couple came to the province for Manitoba’s centennial in 1970.
He said the community was chosen to host the royal family because they wanted to experience the “true color of a French-Canadian village”. At the time, more than 80% of the population of St-Pierre-Jolys was French-speaking.
A party was planned for the visit and the whole village was decorated.
“I couldn’t believe they were building this stage in the middle of town in front of our Catholic cathedral,” Gagné said.
But the village wanted to make an even bigger impression on the queen and her husband.
“We are surrounded here by Mennonites, Ukrainians, Germans, Hutterites, etc. One of our nicknames is the frog, of course,” said Gagné.
“We said, ‘Let’s take this and start the Frog Follies. “”
The mayor challenged other local politicians, mayors and prefects to present their best frog. And, thus, began the frog jumping competition.
People searched ponds for Northern Leopard Frogs, Manitoba’s largest frog, typically five to 11 centimeters long.
Two Court of Queen’s Bench judges and a doctor were among the judges who crowned George the winning frog, having jumped just over 2.1 meters, and marked the start of the annual Frog Follies.
The festival grew over the following decades to become one of Manitoba’s premier summer adventures. The weekend event draws over 1,000 people every day to the village of just under 1,200 people.
However, it was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gagné said that while the royal couple’s visit was short and he didn’t think he saw any frogs, it had an impact that spanned more than five decades.
He said Philip, in particular, was happy to find pockets of French Canadians in a largely English-speaking province.
Gagné said he was thinking of Prince Philip’s family at the moment.
“He lived a busy life.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 10, 2021.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press