It isn’t easy preparing for the life of a Royal. It’s downright cumbersome when you are a rather large frog who sits by the side of a busy highway, waiting for kisses. And how many kisses does it take to transform a frog into a Prince? We are still waiting to find out, it seems.
Kissimmee (pictured right) is his name, and for three-plus years, he has been a focal point for commuters and travelers on U.S. Highway 15, just south of Thurmont. No matter the rain, snow, sunshine, or any weather in-between, nothing has deterred him from his purpose: to be a Prince!
Kissimmee’s previous line of work was in a playground, where children climbed on his back, chased each other around his big old gold and green plastic body, and would-be princesses posed for pictures smooching his big lips. It was an okay gig, but Kissimmee knew he was born for greater things.
One day (or once upon a time), Jeff and Reggie Barber, father and son and owners of Playground Specialists Inc. (a family business in Thurmont that serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia), were out assessing a new playground site. Guess who lived there?
Reggie, the elder Barber, a self-proclaimed Purveyor of Nonsense, took it upon himself to adopt Kissimmee and share him with the world that traveled down route 15. The placement of Kissimmee changes daily, as Reggie pulls him up and down the side road next to the highway. It’s a game played by who knows how many to guess where he will show up next.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to where I put him,” Reggie explained. “It’s all about having fun.”
For the most part, smiles are unseen, but in those speeding trucks, cars, and motorcycles barreling down the highway to their destinations, you can bet that smiles often last for miles.
Reggie has received cards, letters, and notes—sometimes stuck on our Prince-to-be—all proclaiming their love for him. And, yes, there are also those who stop to plant a nice big kiss on our stalwart amphibian. One commuter, recently retired, sent a note commenting on how much he enjoyed wondering where Kissimmee would be moved each day and how much fun seeing him made his commute a pleasure over the years.
People have also stopped to “decorate” Kissimmee. For some reason (perhaps his color), St. Patrick’s Day is a biggie. Reggie is never sure who might show up or when, but people of all ages have stopped to let their kids (and inner kids) out to play.
Before Kissimmee came to live by the side of the road, a purple dinosaur could be seen counting cars, or whatever dinosaurs do. According to Reggie, “He kept traveling. Once, he returned, but then took off again.”
No one has yet tried to make off with Kissimmee. His size is a deterrent; and, just in case you get any ideas, his best friend is a Wizard, so be careful of lightning bolts.
I’m not sure about the Prince thing. They have always been overrated to me. I also would not want that last kiss, whatever number it is, to be the reason we never see Kissimmee again sitting somewhere by the side of the road, watching the world go by.