In cities across the country, the New Year will be rung in with an object being ceremonially "dropped" as the clock counts down. New York City's Times Square has its famous "ball-drop," for example. And this year in Nashville, a musical note strung with LED lights will ceremonially drop.
Back in 1990, Brasstown, North Carolina resident Clay Logan realized that his neighbors didn't have anything to drop to ring in the new year. What Brasstown does have, however, is plenty of possums. He put two and two together, and soon enough, Brasstown was welcoming the new year with the "possum drop."
The tradition continued in Brasstown until 2018 when Logan realized he could no longer manage the event. It migrated over to nearby Andrews.
At this point, it bears noting that the phrase "possum drop" doesn't tell the whole story. No animals were ever "dropped" in the sense of being let go of in order to fall. Rather, the animal, in a cage, was safely and slowly lowered. But the phrase "New Year's Eve slowly lowering of a possum safely in a cage" doesn't exactly tickle the ear, so the event was always referred to, via verbal shorthand, as a "possum drop."Indeed, the misleading name may have given the wrong idea, says Emily Malin, a town administrator for nearby Andrews. One such rumor was that a live animal was thrown from the roof of a building.
"There were a lot of untruths being spread about us being cruel to the animals. It isn't true," she said.
The fact that the animal was safely lowered in a cage aside, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wasn't having it. The animal-rights organization lobbied for years to have the tradition discontinued, and Malin says that the tradition is now over, for good.
In a statement, PETA lawyer Martina Bernstein said that it was time for the tradition to go.
"It took years of lawsuits by PETA and appeals to state officials by concerned citizens, but 'Possum Drop' organizers may finally be leaving opossums in peace and ringing in the new decade in a compassionate way," she said.
Back in Andrews, there will still be a town New Year's Eve celebration, just without the possum drop. Instead, there will be a beauty pageant (without women) and a wrestling match.
"As long as we have some kind of event going on, people are happy," Malin said.