Come out to the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion on New Year’s Eve for music at 6 p.m. and a “possum drop” at midnight.

The Henderson is hosting Kilby’s Pickin’ Party with Steve and Penny Kilby and friends for family-friendly entertainment followed by Marion’s first Possum Drop.

But don’t worry! The possum is made of paper mache and will be filled with candy and treats like a New Year’s Eve piñata. Folks at the school have been working for weeks on the possum that will make his debut on Tuesday night.

Admission is a covered dish to share. No alcohol will be served.

“Our New Year’s Eve Pickin’ Party started last year, as a continuation of Steve and Penny Kilby’s annual New Year’s Party, which they hosted at their house in Troutdale,” said Catherine Schrenker, executive director of the Henderson. “Due to a series of life events, last year Steve and Penny were lamenting that they didn’t think they could host a party and I offered to have it at the Henderson. Their party had grown in popularity over the course of 25 years and it just made sense to move it to this venue, we had plenty of space and many pickers already attend our Monday Night Jam so they were used to the space. We set it up as a potluck and had well over 200 people attend and every room in the school was full of music. We had a lot of wonderful food and fellowship.”

“I had asked Steve and Penny if I needed to make plans for midnight,” Schrenker said of last year, “and they insisted that everyone leaves around 10 p.m. so not to worry about it. Well, when midnight came around, there were quite a few people left so we all went up to the auditorium and I pulled down the big screen so we could watch the ball drop in New York. I had some sparkling cider left over from a paint party, so we toasted and all went home.”

Schrenker said that on her way home from last year’s event, she decided something better could be done for the midnight celebration.

“I wanted to come up with something that made sense for our area,” she said. “As it happened there was a possum crossing the road and I thought, how funny it would be to make a cartoon-like paper mache possum, fill it with candy and prizes and toss it off the roof of the school at midnight. That would be better than any ball dropping… and far more fun.”

Schrenker said she mentioned the idea to Ken Heath, Marion’s director of community and economic development, half jokingly, and he said, “Why not?”

“I looked into a few towns that do something similar, but they actually lower a live possum down, which I think is cruel,” she said. “Everyone should realize this is all in fun, and also realize that it is not a real possum; possums are awesome creatures. Think of this as a ‘reverse piñata.’”

Schrenker started work a few weeks ago on a paper mache sculpture, using a large balloon for the body and smaller one for the head. Then she made a paste with flour and water, dipped strips of newspaper into the paste and layered the strips around the balloons. The balloons popped leaving a hard shell that can be painted, carved and embellished. She will cut a hole in the shell and fill it with candy and prizes so when it hits the pavement it breaks open and everyone can have a treat.

“I am actually making two, so just in case something happens to the first one, I have a backup,” she said. “I also have made a simple ball out of a large balloon, which I will use for practice… trying to get the logistics right. I may have to tie it with a rope and suspend it over the edge of the roof and then let go, rather than the original plan of everyone yelling, ‘It’s midnight!’ and we toss it.”

“The point is to have fun, celebrate the New Year by doing something a little different and be grateful for this wonderful town we live in, Marion, Virginia.”

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