Brasstown, NC -- An annual New Year's Eve gathering here that draws thousands and involves the lowering of an opossum in a box atop a pole at midnight will go on, though the party won't involve a live animal this year.
"We're still going to do the event," said Clay Logan, the owner of Clay's Corner store. "We just don't know who the guest of honor will be."
For the past 19 years, Logan has organized an annual 'possum drop, a New Year's Eve celebration that is alcohol-free and has included everything from bluegrass music to the lowering of a live possum locked in a see-through box draped in tinsel.
Last month, a judge found in favor of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had sued the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the agency that issued a permit each year for the event. PETA argued that the Clay County event was illegal and cruel.
Logan didn't meet the requirements for a captivity license or permit, so the commission circumvented its duty and invented a new permit called a "temporary possession and release permit," said Judge Fred Morrison. In his decision, Morrison wrote that "citizens are prohibited from capturing and using wild animals for pets or amusement."
Logan said Monday that he's considering using a stuffed opossum or possibly a road-kill opossum.
"It ain't going to deter us from having the event," said Logan. He expects the party to draw about 3,000 people to his store in Brasstown, about two hours west of Asheville.
There's plenty more to see than just the 'possum drop, added Logan. There will be music by a country and bluegrass band, a tribute to the men and women who serve in the military and a ceremonial firing of muzzleloaders by the Brasstown Brigade.
The party will also feature a 'Possum Idol singing contest and a Miss 'Possum contest, "where a bunch of Southern gentlemen dress up as Southern ladies," Logan said.
David Perle, PETA's senior media coordinator, said he was happy this year's event would be animal-free.
"There are many ways to ring in the new year that don't involve dangling a small, timid and terrified wild animal over a boisterous crowd and exposing him to bright lights, fireworks, and other frightening noises," Perle wrote in an emailed statement.
"As a result of PETA's lawsuit and the judge's ruling that it is illegal to use a live opossum for such an event, Brasstown this year will be able to throw a great party without supporting cruelty to animals," Perle wrote.