WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s a tradition that dates back 53 years. The Possum Festival in Wausau brings out families from all across the panhandle, and this year was no different.

The festival is more than just a good time for residents; it’s a big part of history in the town of Wausau. Possum festival founder, Dalton Carter hosted the inaugural event over fifty years ago.

“I founded the festival in 1970 and I chaired it for 25 years and I retired as general chairman, but I still worked with the festival,” founder Dalton Carter said. “I just sat down one day and asked the good lord to help me plan it and I said as long as I stay with that it’ll be successful and I’m thankful it is and this is the 53rd.”

The Washington County resident decided to start the event in hopes of helping the small community become something bigger.

“I started this festival because I’d go to other festivals and the kids were able to be in a parade, the adults were able to do something and I just wanted to give the people of Wausau a chance to do something that they’ve never done and the proceeds go to the benefit of the community,” Carter said.

As part of giving back, the festival will be handing out several scholarships to local kids.

“We’ve got three scholarships this year, now three, and we give a thousand dollars per semester for each kid for four years. That’s four thousand dollars per kid and we’ve got three of them. So, we’re obligated right now 12-thousand dollars this past year to take care of the scholarships for those three students,” Carter said.

Carter is expecting a huge turnout this year.

“I’m looking forward to a big weekend, a big festival, because I can tell from the feedback that I see on my cellphone and iPad on the internet, people are responding and they’ve got widespread publicity, I’m looking forward to a big festival tomorrow,” Carter stated.

The Possum Palace was packed with people when the event kicked off Friday night with a concert from the Highway 20 Band. The activities will continue all day Saturday and are free to the public.

“We have a new area that we call the kids zone and it’s really just a lot of free games. We want this to be for the entire family,” master of ceremonies Joe Phillips said. “A family friendly event and it’s all free for any kids that want to come.”

The 53rd Annual Possum Festival will resume early Saturday morning with the 5K run at 7 a.m. The annual parade is set to begin at 10 a.m.