From: Thursday, December 30 2010*
Mike has been the TH editorial artist since 1987.
On Friday, Prairie du Chien, Wis., will mark its 10th year of the Droppin’ of the Carp, created as a spoof of the Times Square tradition of lowering the ball on New Year’s Eve.
Founders Tom and Cathie Nelson chose a fish — christened “Lucky” — to represent the Mississippi River town. The Chinese custom of eating carp on New Years gave some credence to their choice.
Valley Fish Market owner and Carp Fest committee member Mike Valley and his granddaughter Sophia caught this year’s honoree through the ice at Blackhawk Bay on Sunday. The fish will be frozen and put on display Friday, when folks can kiss the carp for good luck before it’s hoisted aloft by a crane. The grand finale begins at 9 p.m. at the entrance to St. Feriole Island on Blackhawk Avenue.
The event has grown tremendously in the past decade, and now attracts up to 2,000 people. This year, Carp Fest is five days long (with a follow-up breakfast on Saturday) and features arts & crafts/games, bonfire, bowling, concert, dodgeball, euchre tournament, fireworks/light show, football game, hot air balloon rides, king and queen coronation, run/walk, skate party, skiing/sledding, swimming, youth triathlon and —of course — ice fishing.
Rarely has a bottom dweller been cause for such celebration.
After watching a peach drop in Savannah, Ga., and a ball drop in Biloxi, Miss., for New Year's Eve, Tom and Cathie Nelson thought their hometown needed something unique, too.
"Those events inspired us to go ahead with some kind of New Year's Eve celebration here," Tom said. "Let's do this thing that won't be too much. We'll go to the City Council and ask them to close down a block of the street for a couple of hours for some sort of celebration."
The celebration includes the lowering of a dead carp, nicknamed "Lucky," weighing between 25 and 30 pounds and caught locally. It's frozen, then partially thawed and prepared for the big day. "The Droppin' of the Carp" culminates the city's Carp Fest as the New Year enters. After the drop, revelers can go up and kiss Lucky, and have their picture taken.
Tom Nelson recalled hearing about a report by New York Public Radio that said for New Year's Eve activities, the No. 1 place to be is
|fishy fun Event: "Droppin' of the Carp" New Year's Eve festivities, Prairie du Chien, Wis.. Date: Friday, Dec. 31. Time: 9 p.m. bonfire, entertainment, light show, countdown at 11:40 p.m. Place: St. Feriole Island and Blackhawk Avenue.|
"It's a very creative way to bring in the New Year," said Bob Moses, Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. "Because of the originality of it, it's gotten a lot of notoriety. It gets us on the map."
In 2001, the Nelsons expected anywhere from a dozen to 50 people to attend the event. Instead, close to 500 people showed up.
"The chamber said we have to keep this going, and we really have," Tom said. "We've had a lot of fun. There was no way we thought we would go beyond a couple of years; that was not our intent. But circumstances dictated for it to go on."
This year's fish will be Lucky No. 10. Sometime in 2011, he will be refrozen and buried. A tree will be planted on top with a marker bearing his name and number.