The Possum Queen competition returns for the 33rd year in a new location in Winsted

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LITCHFIELD – It’s a comedy show, a fundraiser with auction prizes, a New Years party, and everyone’s invited.

The Possum Queen contest returns for its 33rd year on January 1 and will be held this year from noon to 4 p.m. at Crystal Peak in Winsted, a departure from its long-standing location at the Litchfield Inn. Organizers are expecting a crowd and hope to raise thousands of dollars to help local families with medical expenses.

John Bongiorno, vice president and chairman of distribution for this year’s Possum Queen Contest, said this year’s event is going to be great, even if it won’t be held in the same location.


“Not everyone was happy to leave Litchfield, but honestly there is no other place big enough to host an event like this than Crystal Peak,” he said. “Owner John Roller has donated over $ 100,000 to us over the years, and he continues to do so.

“He’s giving us Crystal Peak for free,” Bongiorno said. “We have some great live auction items like two pairs of Boston Celtics tickets and other really amazing stuff. It starts to take shape and become something.

The costume contest is replaced by performances by five professional comedians, and DJ Vin Avallone provides music and plays the role of emcee, alongside Bongiorno and other members of the board.

A Litchfield shuttle will transport anyone who doesn’t want to go to Crystal Peak, he said.

“All Star Transportation is providing a bus, leaving the Litchfield Saltwater Grill at 11:30 am and 12:30 pm, and it will bring people back around 5:30 or 6:00 pm so they don’t have to worry about driving.” said Bongiorno.

Some traditions will continue, such as the Mattatuck Drum Corps performance for the opening ceremony of the event. “They were delighted to come and we are delighted to have them with us,” said Bongiorno.

The group hopes for a large attendance.

“We originally had around 250 people, but it all depends on the weather and COVID-19,” he said. “Masks are optional, and showing your immunization status is optional. It is up to everyone who attends to do what they feel comfortable doing.

Billy Neller of Litchfield, who started the contest with Brent Hawkins to celebrate New Years at the West Street Grill, is still the organization’s president. This fun gathering has expanded to include other fundraisers such as the Possum Queen Golf Tournament, slated for July 25, 2022, at Greenwoods Country Club. And this year, the group is hosting a Family Feud-style game show in Torrington, on a date to be announced.

Possum Queen members also host Hobo Days in September with the Canaan VFW, in partnership with local veterans and board member Col. Kirk Harrington.

“He has been a tremendous asset to the competition,” Bongiorno said. “When we get names of veterans asking for financial assistance, he is in a position to get involved. He took five of the people who were asking for help and brought them to the VA to get what they needed. The partnerships we have built, like this one, have also been amazing. “

In the past, contestants have arrived as the cast of “Batman” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Star Wars”. Changes are coming to keep the contest fresh and fun for everyone, Bongiorno said.

“We have an average of 18-22 people at our Possum Queen meetings now, and every person there has had an idea of ​​something new to do,” he said. “We’re changing the event a bit – for the costume contest it’s hard for people to come up with skits every year, so we have comedians instead. If anyone wants to sing, they can take the microphone and costumes are always welcome. You can wear whatever you want.

Ultimately, the group wants the Possum Queen contest to look like a variety show, “like Carol Burnett or Dean Martin,” Bongiorno said. “We want people involved to feel good about this. “

If people want to do a skit, they can perform live on Facebook, which will be shown on a 60-inch screen at Crystal Peak during the event on January 1.

In a fundraising letter to the public, Brett and Albert Clugston, owners of the Litchfield Saltwater Grille, explained how the money is used.

“If you are from Litchfield County, you may already know someone or the friend of a friend aided by Queen Possum,” the Clugstons wrote. “We can help a child access the right resources and provide transitional financial assistance at the same time. PQF could help buy a wheelchair for someone who has had a stroke and can’t afford it. We can help organize meals or groceries for someone who just spent their last dollar on medical bills. Unfortunately, we live in a world where needs far exceed resources and PQF is able to provide a small amount of comfort and support to a small portion of those who need it most. “

Contest members are looking for people facing financial hardship caused by medical expenses or other hardship.

The competition was founded in 1989 by raising about $ 2,000 for a Litchfield family in need of help with medical bills, according to the foundation’s website, possumqueenfoundation.org. For 25 years this has been an annual campaign, raising funds for one or two people each year in Litchfield with struggling medical expenses.

In the 2021 contest, the group raised nearly $ 70,000 in a virtual Possum Queen contest. Members have provided direct support to 28 families, with donations ranging from $ 2,500 to $ 10,000.

To donate or for more information, visit possumqueenfoundation.org or visit the group’s Facebook page.


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