In Brasstown, North Carolina, residents aren’t glued to their TV screen on New Years Eve to watch the Times Square ball drop. They are at Clay’s Corner to watch the annual Opossum Drop.

But that could all change if PETA gets its way. USA Today reports that PETA has called Clay Logan’s Opossum Drop, which has been happening for 18 years, “cruel and illegal.”

The opossum is not dropped in a free fall, but is lowered in a garland-covered Plexiglas container.

North Carolinian Towns Tradition of Dropping an Opossum on New Years Eve Under Attack by PETA

USA Today has more:

Logan was undeterred after hearing about PETA’s allegation. He’s been down this road before.

In 2005, the group threatened to sue him for not having proper permits to keep a wild animal so he placed a dead opossum in the box and raised it up the pole outside his gas station. The opossum was road-kill.

The crowd, which can number as high as 3,000 with good weather, was not pleased that year and neither was Logan.

“People didn’t like it at all,” he said. “I got scolded heavy but I said ‘Hey, I can’t afford to be sued.’”

Logan said he has all his permits, though PETA disagrees.

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PETA said the opossum “suffers through a barrage of terrifying stimuli” such as fireworks and gunfire.

“Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and cruelty to animals is indefensible,” PETA Director Delcianna Winders said in a written statement. “Using a captive opossum as the centerpiece of a raucous party is cruel and illegal.”

Watch the 2010 Opossum Drop:

Logan states that none of the opossums have played dead  during the event, something they are known to do if frightened or feeling threatened. He also said to USA Today that he picks the star opossum from a tree before New Year’s Eve and keeps it fed. He noted that because they are well fed under his care, some are hesitant to leave after the show is done.

PETA says they’ve sent a letter to Logan in hopes of persuading again him to find an alternative to using a live animal at the event. They want him to emulate Tallapoosa, Ga.’s New Year’s Eve Possum Drop.

“The great thing about Tallapoosa is that they don’t use a live possum,” PETA lawyer Brittany Peet said. “They use a taxidermied possum.” And because it’s the same stuffed critter every year, it’s become something of a local mascot, Peet said.

The Opossum Drop may be North Carolina’s most distinctive New Year’s celebration, but the state has plenty of other “drops” planned for that day as well, including a giant acorn, a 30-pound flea made of fabric and wool and a light-up pickle replica in the vegetable-canning hotbed of Mt. Olive.

Watch the official trailer of the opossum drop here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.