• Mark S. Albury: Happy New Year
    December 30,2013

    Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve, that time of the year we celebrate the extremely important milestone of using a new date when writing checks.

    There are many ways to celebrate the ringing in of a new year. Locally, you can attend fireworks, parades, and “First Night” activities. Or, If you don’t mind doing a bit of traveling, you can participate in some of the more thrilling New Year’s Eve traditions. For example, in South America the new year is ushered in with celebrants putting on brightly colored underwear; and in the Philippines residents don polka dots and eat large quantities of round fruit (no bananas or square apples) to ensure a prosperous year.

    During the Scottish Festival of Hogmanay, the village people swing giant blazing fireballs over their heads as they march through the streets towards the YMCA; and in Denmark, where they clearly enjoy their beer immensely, the residents partake in the tradition of jumping off chairs at midnight.

    But you don’t have to break out the passport to see one of the most riveting New Year’s Eve rituals in the world. As reported in this paper last week, on December 31 the tiny hamlet of Brasstown, N.C., has the annual Possum Drop. During this ceremony, a live possum is placed in a pyramid-shaped plastic container and slowly lowered to the ground in a similar way the mirrored ball is lowered at midnight in Times Square. The animal is then released after the drop to become a celebrity in the world of woodland creatures.

    The brains behind the Possum Drop is a gentleman named Clay Logan. Twenty-four years ago, Clay discovered canned possum during a trip to Mississippi, and came up with the idea of lowering a live possum in a Lucite container from his convenient store roof at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I suppose if Mr. Logan discovered a can of fancy albacore packed in water, we’d have an annual Tuna Drop. But he didn’t, and we don’t.

    The festivities associated with the Possum Drop include a contest where local men dress up as women to compete for the title of “Miss Possum Queen.” There is also bluegrass music, snacks, beverages, and souvenir merchandise.

    The Possum Drop is not without its controversy. As is the case with other forms of wholesome fun like puppy tossing and kitten wrestling, the folks at PETA are raining on the Possum Drop organizers’ parade.

    PETA feels that the possum used for the drop will be traumatized by the activity. Personally, I think as long as the animal isn’t exposed to the men dressed up as women competing for the Miss Possum Queen title, the critter should be OK, but PETA isn’t convinced. The animal rights group claims that the lights, noise, and crowd of people can wreck a possum’s nerves and health. If PETA really wants to do something to preserve the nerves and health of the possum population, they can work to ban the use of cars. The only possums I ever see are on the side of the road, and their health is not usually an issue. But I digress.

    PETA has enlisted the help of possum “experts” to make their case. These experts have more than 125 years of experience collectively caring for well over 14,000 possums. This raises a few obvious questions — mainly, what the heck do you have to do to become a possum expert? And 14,000 possums? That’s three times the population of Northfield. Where do all of these animals live? And what sort of “care” do they need? Are they covered under the Affordable Care Act?

    This animal rights group is in agreement that capturing a wild possum and suspending the animal in a plexiglass box high in the air as fireworks are set off, crowds of people scream, and loud music is played is a terrifying experience for such a “shy” animal. Maybe out of 14,000 of these critters, the organizers could find an “outgoing” possum, one who might actually like the attention and be willing to take part in the animal drop. The opponents of the event will not be appeased.

    PETA has not deterred Mr. Logan, who has obtained federal and state animal permits for the drop, and he plans to go ahead with the ceremony.

    So if you are looking for a new and different way to spend your New Year’s Eve, find a date, head south, and catch the 25th annual Possum Drop in Brasstown, N.C. I plan to remain home in my brightly colored new underwear, eating lots of round fruit. Who knows, at midnight I might even jump off a chair.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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