Prairie du Chien carp drop is just tip of iceberg*

New York City drops a crystal ball - ever so slowly - starting a minute before the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31 in Times Square. Roughly a million people show up to celebrate the start of the new year.
Not to be outdone, the Mississippi River town of Prairie du Chien, population 6,000, drops a 40-pound frozen carp from a tall crane starting at 11:59 p.m.
Yup, a carp.
There's more: The "Droppin' of the Carp" festivities begin at 9 p.m. Dec. 31 on Blackhawk Ave. in downtown Prairie du Chien with a bonfire, music, light show, fireworks and the (drum roll please) crowning of a carp king and queen.
Why, there's even a carp-coloring contest for the kids, as well as a gang of other activities leading up to the big drop.
You can give the frozen fish, named "Lucky," a big kiss on the lips. The kiss is supposed to bring you good fortune for the coming year. The celebration nearly increases the town's population by half, attracting several thousand people who come to commune with the carp.
According to Mike Ulrich, head of Prairie du Chien's parks and recreation department, the festival is the brainchild of local Tom Nelson. Nelson and his wife, Cathy, so the story goes, came up with the idea around a dozen years ago while traveling in through Atlanta, where New Year's has been celebrated with the dropping of a huge (8-foot by 8-foot) peach since 1989.
The Nelsons put their heads together and thought they could transplant the fest back home but wanted to give it a local flavor, Ulrich said. The result was Lucky the carp. (In Japan, carp - specifically the colorful koi carp - are viewed as symbols of good luck and prosperity.)
"Basically it was a way to have some fun on New Year's Eve, and it's expanded from there with activities leading up to the 31st," Ulrich said. "Though it can be pretty chilly at times, the carp drop really fills up the town. Then again, last year it was quite balmy."
And what happens to Lucky after New Year's? Ulrich said he stays in a freezer all winter and then is planted under a new tree in the appropriately named Lucky Park come spring.

 * Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer. Journal Sentinnel, 

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A fun-filled event intent on bringing friends, family, and community together for the New Year! Proceeds going to Dropping the Carp Fund and City Park and Recreation Youth Enrichment/Hoffman Hall Activities.
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Additional Information: Contact Prairie du Chien Tourist Info 1-800-732-1673 (www.prairieduchien.org)