Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — A contestant on a French telvision show, Peking Express, attempts to balance on a plank of wood Monday morning as part of a challenge for the show at Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins in Ferriday.

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French TV show contestants venture through the Miss-Lou

Published 12:01am Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FERRIDAY — After traveling through South Korea, the Philippines and Australia filming a French television show, the cotton fields at Frogmore plantation still amazed Thierry Guillaume when he first arrived Wednesday with his cast and crew.

“This is just so different than what we’ve seen in other parts of the country and the world,” Guillaume said pointing out to the fields. “It’s very different, but very nice.”

Guillaume, who is a producer for a French reality game show called Peking Express, arrived in the Miss-Lou Wednesday to begin filming the ninth season of the show.

The show follows pairs of contestants that have to hitchhike from one destination to the next with no money and little resources. Once the contestants arrive at their destination by hitchhiking, they must find a place to sleep by knocking on doors in whichever city they’ve landed.

“It’s similar to the show ‘The Amazing Race,’ but we think ours is a little harder,” Guillaume said laughing. “The contestants are only given one Euro ($1.35) a day for food.

Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — The show forces the contestants to hitchhike their way from one destination to another. Above, the same contestant holds a sign up hoping to catch a ride in front of the Go Mart in Natchez.

“Everything else, they have to get by asking other people.”

This season’s contestants, who can’t be identified until the show airs, found themselves in downtown Natchez Sunday night asking locals for a warm bed in which to sleep. The three teams all eventually found places to stay.

The fourth team, however, spent their evening as tourists in New Orleans staying in a four-star hotel because of winning a previous challenge.

Apart from the hitchhiking adventures, the contestants also compete in challenges every other day. The winner of those challenges gets a bonus, which consists of being exempt from the next day’s activity and room and board in a hotel.

The three groups that spent the night in Natchez were transported Monday morning to Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins to compete in that day’s challenge.

An obstacle course that crews had been working to build since Wednesday was assembled right next to the cotton fields.

While one of the group’s contestants balanced on a small plank of wood, the other had to walk through a balance beam maze to retrieve a large sack of cotton containing a hidden treasure.

The contestant had to empty the bag of cotton and search for a round-colored chip that corresponded to his team’s colors.

If the other contestant fell off the plank, the team lost.

The challenge, and the game show overall, were something that both Buddy and Lynette Tanner, owners of Frogmore, said they found interesting and entertaining.

“We’ve done several documentaries and other things like that, but this was the first game show with challenges,” Lynette said. “It was an interesting concept, that’s for sure.”

Lynette said she received a call from Mike Prejean with the International Department of Louisiana Tourism last year asking if they would be interested in offering their venue for the show.

A producer from the show came down and visited Frogmore in August 2012 and made all the arrangements for their future visit.

While it’s flattering to be considered for such opportunities, Lynette said they always welcome groups who are interested in the area.

“We never charge anyone to host their things here because it’s all about bringing more people to the Miss-Lou,” Lynette said. “If you want to be on a cotton plantation, this is pretty much it around this part of the South, so we want to make sure people are attracted to the area.

Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — Crews spent all morning filming the obstacle challenge at Frogmore..

“Apart from eating and staying here, these groups generally bring in a lot of money to the community.”

The contestants on this season’s show started in Havana, Cuba, and will end their voyage in Miami.

The Ferriday plantation was put on the itinerary for this season’s travels because of its French history, Guillaume said.

“This is the first year we’ve come to the United States, and for the French people it’s more original to come to Louisiana where there is so much French history,” he said. “All the contestants and the crew have really liked the area so far.”

The contestants will continue traveling south toward New Orleans on the way to their destination.

The winners of the show are rewarded with 100,000 Euro, or roughly $135,000.