WAUSAU - As politicians from across the state descended on the event, the 49th Annual Possum Festival kept its down-home cultural heritage found in its celebration of the possum.
"It's family heritage," said 2018 Possum Queen Christie Carter, noting her mother was also once named queen.
"I just try to think back to the years behind me with my parents and the heritage they come from," she said, exposing the colored black crevices of her teeth that matched her costume. "And I try to embody and embrace that past and utilize that for the future generations through my act and my talent."
The festival is the city's largest event of the year. The funds from the event go toward the volunteer fire department and other community-based needs.
"It's more of an honor that the people would come out to support such a little town," said organizer Captain Adam Smith. "The name 'Possum Fest' is a funny name, but it means something to the community. This is who are, this is our heritage. The possum saved a lot of people's life back in the Depression."
"That's what this is about," he added.
The deep local history of survival on the marsupial was the cream of the crop as the first possum up for auction went to highest bidder Rep. Neal Dunn for nearly $1,000.
Along with state political candidates, local candidates running for District 4 on Washington County Board of County Commissioners, held the event in high esteem and took advantage of the opportunity to network with voters.
"I'm a long time supporter of this since I was just a boy," said District 4 candidate Todd Abbott. "The Abbotts have been in Washington County since the late 1800s, I've always supported Washington County. It's a good place - whether I'm running for office or not - I support Washington County."
"It's funding a great source, which is our fire department," he added. "The togetherness is phenomenal."
Candidate for District 4 Wesley Griffin, also a county native, was also in attendance. He said laid-back, fun functions like the festival is a way for residents to see their candidates for "who they are."
"I'm a voice for the people," he said. "I will be an advocate for the people, somebody they can come talk to, and me address the situation and concerns they have for the county."
He noted, if elected, he'd focus on the youth.
"That means creating stuff for them to do," he said. "That means invest in parks, recreation and work on the infrastructure of the county. You're only good as your foundation."
While organizers did not have the amount raised immediately available by time of press Friday, Smith said it was a good funding year and the city is poised for an even greater 50th anniversary next year.
"Every governor since 1970 that's been elected made an appearance at the Wausau Fun Day," said Wausau Mayor Roger Hagan. "We hope that what holds on today quenches the appetite for everyone to come back."
"But we're looking forward to a big 50th anniversary," he added, although the next year won't be a heavy political hear. "A big 50 golden anniversary."