The Possum Drop
The Possum Drop is any one of several New Year's Day celebrations in which a possum is lowered from height at midnight. In contrast to other events of its kind, which typically involve replicas, a "possum drop" uses a live animal as its prop.
In Brasstown, North Carolina an annual "hillbilly" event at Clay's Corner convenience store is organized by proprietors Clay and Judy Logan. At midnight on New Year's Eve, instead of dropping an inanimate object, a plexiglass pyramid containing a live opossum was lowered from the roof of the store. The animal is lowered carefully to prevent the occurrence of injury. However, trauma to the animal from fireworks and guns firing is a major issue. The opossum is not actually "dropped;" as with most events of its kind, it is lowered in the same manner as a time ball. Affidavits issued by a number of veterinarians have stated that the noise and light fireworks give off could cause trauma to the opossum.
Federal and state animal permits are obtained in advance and the opossum is released afterwards. The festivities include a contest with local men dressed as women to compete for the title "Miss Possum Queen" as well as bluegrass music, snacks and beverages, and souvenir merchandise.
In Tallapoosa, Georgia Danny Welch organizes the annual event. The Possum Drop festivities include food vendors, T-shirts and souvenirs, live music, and fireworks after midnight. The Master of Ceremonies is nationally known country music DJ Rhubarb Jones. Attendance in recent years has been in excess of 3000. This event differs from the one in Brasstown, NC due to the usage of a taxidermied possum rather than a live one.
Spencer the famous possum is suspended in a wire ball wrapped with Christmas lights and is kept at ground level most of the night to allow spectators to see and have pictures taken with him. At about 11:30 PM he is raised to his full height to the top of the American Hometown Realty Building and at midnight amidst great fanfare and cheers is slowly lowered to the ground to signify the start of the new year. A living animal is not lowered: Spencer was a real opossum found dead in the wild and was stuffed by local taxidermist Bud Jones. Spencer's name is a tribute to Ralph L. Spencer.
The event has grown over the last five years and attracts visitors from across the country which travel to Tallapoosa, Ga to celebrate New Year's Eve. The event has caught the attention of local and national media. The Learning Channel(TLC) chose The Possum Drop in Tallapoosa, Ga. as the location to film the New Years Special for their hit series "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" which will air in February or March 2014
Possum drops have been subject to criticism and protest from many wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife lovers, the general public, national animal rights organizations, including PETA. PETA successfully sued to stop the 2013 Brasstown possum drop, under the premise that the state wildlife commission did not have the authority to issue the permits for such an event. North Carolina General Statue 113-274-(c)-(1c) appears to authorize the state wildlife commission to issue such permits.
The North Carolina legislature passed a law in 2013 to expressly allow the commission to issue such permits, and the Brasstown event resumed in 2014.
PETA, along with "five veterinarians with more than 125 years of combined experience in wildlife medicine and leading wildlife rehabilitators and educators who collectively have cared for well over 14,000 opossums" are all in agreement that "capturing a wild opossum, holding the animal for several days or weeks, and suspending the animal in a Plexiglas box high in the air as fireworks are set off, muskets are fired, crowds of people scream, and loud music is played" is a terrifying experience for such "shy" animals.
According to wildlife experts, the "dropped" opossums "likely died shortly after their release, probably from predation or 'capture myopathy,' a cascading series of catastrophic physical reactions to stress and trauma."
Dr. Brian King, a wildlife veterinarian with more than twenty years of experience in treating opossums, concludes that it's "likely these animals met a horrible death" after their release following the Opossum Drop. Furthermore, he goes on to say that "there is no justification for inflicting such cruelty on any animal for the sake of two hours of public amusement." Also, he says that by issuing a permit for such an activity, North Carolina would be "tantamount to becoming complicit in animal abuse."
Another wildlife expert in opposition to The Possum Drop is Dr. Kenneth Jones, the country's foremost opossum researcher and veterinarian. He says "tormenting an opossum in the manner of the Oppossum Drop is disgusting." Using a live opossum at the event "is a public display of the mistreatment of an animal, plain and simple, and no government agency should condone such cruelty by issuing an official permit for the activity."
- Clay's Corner - Opossum Capital of the World - Clay & Judy Logan Proprietors http://www.clayscorner.com
- New Years Eve Lowering of the Opossum http://www.clayscorner.com/new-years-eve.shtml
- "We treat our little friend with respect they say but others argue this is not the case. We hold him in awe, and do not inflict any injury or traumatize God's creature of the night." http://www.clayscorner.com/
- BlueRidgeHighlander.com - Events & Festivals in the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains http://www.theblueridgehighlander.com/calendar/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=2647
- JEFFREY GETTLEMAN (December 31, 2003). "Keep Your Ball. We’ve Got the Possum.". The New York Times.
- Mountain Manager & Associates http://www.mountainmanager.net/localinterest.htm
- The Possum Drop http://www.thepossumdrop.com/
- WSBTV.com - Entertainment - Story: Georgia Town Celebrates New Years With Possum Drop http://www.wsbtv.com/entertainment/22103037/detail.html
- RoadsideGeorgia.com http://roadsidegeorgia.com/city/tallapoosa.html
- A New Year's Tradition Lives, But the 4-Legged Star Doesn't. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9802E7DF1631F931A35752C0A9629C8B63
- Shaffer, Josh (November 13, 2012). "NC judge halts Brasstown's Opossum Drop". Raleigh News-Observer. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- N.C.G.S 113-274
- "Controversial possum drop prevails in NC". WTVR. Tribune Broadcasting. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- PETA Files Lawsuit to Stop Opossum Drop. "PETA article in opposition of Possum Drop"