FONTANA — For 50 years, Fontana’s frog mascot had no name.
Now, he has more than 100 names.
That is how many entries have been received in a contest that the Fontana Public Library is organizing to choose a name for the community’s famous frog statue.
Not only that, many contestants accented their entries with fictional stories, poems, drawings and personal accounts of visiting the frog.
The response has impressed library officials, who say they never have seen such a big reaction to a local contest.
“It took off in a way we didn’t expect,” library staffer Norma Gowlett said.
The entries have ranged from such simple names as Bob, Fred and Robert to exotic monikers like King Croaker, Robbie Ribbit and Kelli Greenfoot.
Contest organizers have announced plans for a May 11 event where the winning entry will be announced and prizes will be awarded to some entrants.
Sherry Oja, who proposed the name Sir Prince Fontana and added a short story and drawing to her submission, said she had fun putting together the contest entry. Having her idea selected as the frog’s official name would be an honor, Oja said.
“I would be very proud,” she said. “It would be very exciting.”
Community interest in the naming contest has grown beyond just the participants.
Cathy Ellis, who works at Palma Insurance near the frog’s high-profile location, said she is eager to see what name is chosen.
As someone who passes the statue every day, Ellis said she hopes the contest produces a distinctive name rather than something predictable like Kermit.
“The name should be symbolic of Fontana,” she said.
The frog statue, which is about 14 feet tall, greets passing motorists on state Highway 67 from a perch where he has been standing since 1964. Originally part of a miniature golf course, he has outlived the golf course and now is affiliated with a nearby business, Nick’s Upholstery.
Over the years, the statue’s size and prominence have made it an iconic symbol of Fontana.
Made of plaster or cement, the statue had deteriorated about 10 years ago to a point where some local officials talked about removing the green figure. But public backlash blocked that idea, and last year the frog got a makeover that left it looking like new.
That was followed by the library’s decision to find the frog an official name.
Organizers have had heard from children and adults from throughout the region, as well as down in Illinois and as far away as Tacoma, Washington. Some entries were submitted by groups, including a couple of local elementary school classrooms.
Kelly Douglas, a second-grade teacher at Fontana Elementary School, said her students voted and decided on Frogtana as their proposed name. Then the students created an illustrated story that spotlights a variety of places in Fontana that make it a special community.
“We really enjoyed this writing opportunity and showcasing our amazing community and everything Fontana has to offer,” Douglas said.
In all, the contest has attracted 104 different names proposed in 147 different entries representing a total of 180 people.
The entry deadline was March 22, but suggestions have kept on coming.
Gowlett, who has managed poetry writing contests at the library in the past, said the most entries ever received for a contest previously was about 100. To see 147 entries for the frog-naming has set a new benchmark for public participation.
“This has just blown the lid off,” Gowlett said. “We’re really quite amazed.”
Other names suggested include Michigan J. Frog, Groggy Froggy, Gerg, Frognando, Echo, Panchito, Fronk, Torodor, Yoda, Mr. Morton, and Phineas Frog. Most seemed to represent boy names, but a few ideas could make the Fontana mascot a girl, including Goldie, Nonette, Fellicia, Tabitha and Mary Hoppins.
Some entrants suggested naming the frog after real people, including movie star Dennis Hopper, poet Carl Sandburg, statesman Daniel Webster and even early Fontana settler Henry Clark.
Still others proposed incorporating the village’s name into such ideas as Frederic of Fontana, Tony Fontana and Hoppytana.
Stories submitted with entries came with such titles as, “Bob the Frog” and “The Frog Who Got Lost.” In one story, titled “How Frankie Landed in Fontana,” a frog accidentally finds its way to Fontana after getting lost while racing with a turtle.
One poem urging the name Fontana Floyd, included the passage: “I’ll smile you a huge frog smile, when you call me by my name, that’s Fontana Floyd, the frog of fame.”