W.H. Croaker was commissioned by the city in an effort to brighten things up
If you are driving in Missouri on Historic Route 66, down the steep hill which leads to Waynesville, Mo., look to your left. You will see him, peering out resolutely from the foliage, perched on a lily pad. Big black eyes, pointy snout, bright green, white and yellow hide. It’s W. H. Croaker, a Waynesville landmark since the mid-1990s.
“We are the confluence of three rivers, the Big Piney, the Gasconade and the Roubidoux,” Waynesville mayor Luge Hardman said. “Believe me; we have a lot of frogs.”
The rock which would become W. H. Croaker was revealed when the Missouri Department of Transportation excavated part of Waynesville Hill, to widen Route 66. The rock originally resembled a lizard, Hardman recalled.
City Clerk Sheila Debo wanted something done with the newly exposed rock formation.
Phil Nelson, a former Army medic, and sculptor was approached by Debo, and asked if he would create something to brighten up Waynesville Hill.
Phil assumed he would be asked to create a tiger, since this was the school’s mascot.
“They wanted a frog,” Phil recalled in a Wayneville Daily Guide story about the project. “Someone on the city council or something liked frogs. And that was it; I was to sculpt a frog.”
Phil, who refused payment for his work on the rock, was glad to try his hand at the project turning a large boulder into something which would draw smiles and become a land mark for the town.
The rock was subsequently christened W. H. Croaker, the W. H. standing for Waynesville Hill.
Phil only asked that the tools he needed to complete the sculpture would be provided. It took nine months to complete the project, with Phil working from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., in all weather conditions.
The town dearly loves its giant frog, and celebrates the first Saturday in October with Frog-toberfest, a family-friendly event open to everyone.
On Sept. 20, 2012, the city of Waynesville officially adopted W. H. Croaker as the mascot of the city.
Before taking steps to make Croaker the official mascot, the mayor made sure the ground on which he sits was sturdy enough to last.
“It’s a very solid piece of rock,” Hardman said. “He isn’t going anywhere. We’ve had a lot of fun with Mr. Croaker.”
In the past a quilting club made a Christmas hat for the sculpture, and during Frog-toberfest, someone whose identity is kept secret dresses up as the beloved mascot.
Croaker arm-bands and green frog pins have also been used to spread Croaker’s fame far and wide.
Croaker’s creator, Phil Nelson, passed away last year, but his creation will continue to bring smiles motorists for years to come.
So, if you’re cruising down the Waynesville Hill be aware of the speed limit; it’s 25 miles per hour.
And remember, the police could be watching. W. H. Croaker most assuredly is.