Brasstown Drops Possum To Ring In 2014
Hundreds of people gathered in Brasstown Tuesday night for the 20th annual possum drop. Bluegrass music played throughout the evening as visitors counted down the hours to midnight looking at a live possum perched near the stage in a tree.
A wooden box with a live possum inside was brought next to the stage but as another smaller box dropped from a makeshift pulley on the stage itself at midnight, there appeared to be no possum inside. Organizers confirmed as much, saying it was up to the audience to have fun and enjoy the idea of a drop but that there was no actual possum inside the stage box.
Everyone News 13 talked with at the event was aware of the controversy surrounding the possum drop and it's history. PETA has filed numerous lawsuits alleging cruelty to the possums. But organizers have said they feed the possum well and never hurt it during the New Year's Eve celebration.
"This is the first time we've made it to the possum drop," said David Smith. "We thought it was all gone last year we're happy to be here."
"I think they just made a big deal about the possum," said Shelly Smith. "It's fine, well cared for. It'll be fine when they let it out of the box."
Organizers said they do release the possum in the off-stage large wooden box back into the wild after the New Year's Eve party. Souvenirs were selling well throughout the evening out of a small stand.
PETA has argued the loud noise and the crowd has harmful effects on the possums used during the celebrations. Last year a North Carolina judge agreed with PETA that the North Carolina Wildlife permit granted to use a possum at the event wasn't valid. But this year, North Carolina legislators led by a Republican majority voted in a new law allowing permits for special events like the one in Brasstown. Earlier in December, a Wake County judge ruled in favor of the Wildlife Resources Commission that granted the organizer a permit and the right to catch a possum and lower it in the cage at midnight.
PETA released the following statement to News 13 Tuesday night from Martina Bernstein, PETA's Director of Litigation:
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is shirking its duty to protect the state's wildlife by issuing a license that allows the organizers of the "Opossum Drop" to dangle a wild-caught opossum in a box on New Year's Eve above a rowdy crowd of humanstheir primary predatorsand force him or her to endure a terrifying barrage of screaming celebrants, thumping music, and fireworks. PETA's unrefuted evidence from the nation's preeminent opossum experts shows that opossums used at the Opossum Drop are likely to die days or weeks after the event from stress-induced conditions caused by cruel treatment at the event. PETA will continue to work in behalf of mistreated wildlife in this case.