Spencer, the mounted opossum
TALLAPOOSA, Ga. -- It's not easy to see at first glance, but this west Georgia town gets pretty pumped about New Year's Eve. The draw is a nighttime festival that gets even more festive as midnight approaches.
PHOTOS | Tallapoosa New Year's Eve Possum Drop
"It's called the Possum Drop," said Mayor Pete Bridges.
During the event, Bridges says townsfolk "drop" an actual mounted opossum.
"There's a lot of excitement," said Bridges. "We have this huge, beautiful lit cage. He's inside that. He draws down real slowly, until it draws down to 12 o'clock and then it's on the ground."
"Everybody sits around and takes pictures of it. And then we shoot fireworks," Bridges continued. "It's beautiful."
As many as 4,000 people are expected to cheer this year's possum drop, in a town that was called Possum Snout 150 years ago.
"People get all excited. They think the president has come to town, they way they're taking pictures of it," said taxidermist Bud Jones. He's the keeper of Spencer, the mounted Virginia possum that has become a backwoods New Year's icon.
"He was road kill," Jones said. "I was going down the road one day and there was old Spencer in the road. So I jumped out and got him. And there he is."
Tallapoosa's possum drop festival has quietly gained momentum in its dozen years. The crowd annually exceeds the town's population, and drives the coronation of a possum king and queen.
"I mean who wouldn't want to be possum king and queen?" asked Ann Crim. She and her husband Bruce are among this year's three pairs of finalists.
"It's just something to brag about in town," said Bruce Crim.
What's sure is that a critter mostly considered a flinty-eyed pest now gets an an annual evening of celebration here, driven by some once anonymous road kill that's now locally, larger than life.
For more information, see the Possum Drop's web site here.