The end of the decade is the end of an era for one North Carolina community.
Ever since the early 1990s, residents of Andrews, N.C. have lowered a live possum on New Year’s Eve as the “redneck response” to the Times Square ball drop in New York City. And hundreds of revelers have cheered and fired off fireworks and muskets as a live possum was lowered in a plexiglass box as the clock struck midnight.
But this Appalachian tradition has raised the hackles of animal rights groups such as PETA, as well as online petitioners over the years. So Mayor James Reid of Andrews, N.C. has announced that they’ve officially dropped their last possum.
“It’s done. They can stick a fork in it.”
Critics had complained that the event amounts to animal cruelty. One Change.org petition claimed that five veterinarians had verified 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 terrifies these shy animals.” What’s more, the petition stated that the experts believe that the past opossums that participated in the possum drop “likely died shortly after their release.” PETA shared a video of last year’s possum drop on the Google- GOOG, -0.38% YouTube, which drew a pretty even split of likes and dislikes after more than 17,000 views, with many of the comments arguing over whether it was really cruel or not.
Still, animal rights groups took their case to the courts, the Wall Street Journal reported, where the issue has gone back and forth: when courts have blocked the use of a live possum, state GOP legislators have passed laws such as 2013’s “Opossum Right to Work Act,“ to let the possum drop live on.
But Mayor Reid said he now regrets using a live possum last year: the animal had to have its leg amputated after developing an infection from the trap it was caught in. It is now living at the Opossum’s Pouch sanctuary in Prosperity, S.C. (The critter, named Millie, became the face for some petitions against the possum drop practice.)
Plus, the mayor said he is tired of his voicemail getting filled with protest calls. So Tuesday night’s New Year’s Eve bash will center around a pro-wrestling match and an all-male beauty pageant, instead. “Times are changing,” he said. “Our plan is to have an awesome party and not have any live animals involved whatsoever.”
But there are plenty of other unconventional New Year’s Eve drops happening across the country on Tuesday night. Just check Twitter TWTR, +0.73%.
Boise, Idaho lowers a massive potato at the state capital each year, in a nod to the state’s signature crop. The brightly-lit “glowtato” is lowered during a fireworks display.
Key West, Fla. has dropped a giant conch shell for almost 30 years from the roof of Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
But wait, there’s more.
For the Easter-lovers out there, Bethlehem, Penn. drops a 400-pound Peeps Chick.
Yuma, Ariz. celebrates with an illuminated 8-by-8 foot head of iceberg lettuce.
Plymouth, Wis. drops a lit-up wedge of BellVitano cheese from the Sartori Company.
Mt. Olive, N.C. dips a giant (faux) pickle provided by the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, while Eastover, N.C. drops a 3-foot-tall, 30-pound ceramic flea named Jasper.
Mobile, Ala., meanwhile, lowers a 600-pound electric MoonPie backed by a laser light show and fireworks.