Wausau celebrates 51st annual Possum Festival

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WAUSAU, Fla. (WMBB) — Saturday marked 51 years for an annual event loved by many in the Panhandle; the Wausau Possum Festival.

“It’s become a family tradition to come up each year and enjoy the festivities,” said a festival visitor, who drove from Panama City Beach with her family.

Each year on the first Saturday of August, which is recognized as “Possum Day,” the festival pays tribute to the animals that helped the area’s first settlers and their successors survive during times of distress, while also raising money for local organizations.

This year, the festival took a different approach due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making for a shorter and socially-distanced event but one still enjoyed by those who came out.

“As this little community uniting together, we’re showing unity and we’re showing positive,” said James Walsingham, the Possum Festival/”Fun Day” organizer.

Guests participated in the crowning of the 2020 Possum King and Queen, and then a parade at 10 a.m.. 

“It is special, people come from all around to see it,” said this year’s Possum Queen, Juna Tuna.

After that, the annual quilt and possum auctions raised money for local organizations and scholarships for local college-bound students.

“That means the world to me that the community would go out of their way and they would make a way for students that need their college paid for,” said Ridge Faison, a 2020 scholarship recipient.

The event is put on each year by the Wausau Development Club, which runs the scholarship program. 

“There’s nothing that we believe is any more important than education,” said the club’s president, Steve Taylor.

Taylor added that even though this year’s festival wasn’t as big as it usually is, it’s serving a positive reminder of hope for residents.

“It gives people just a small glimpse of normalcy, a little more hope and that’s what we’re all after is hope,” he said. “When you take away hope, you take away everything.”

Event organizers and participants said they hope to see next year’s event back and better than ever, but for now, they hope everyone stays safe and hopeful during the pandemic.

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