WAUSAU — Democrat Alex Sink can make a claim her eventual Republican opponent for governor won't be able to make: She ate possum on the campaign trail Saturday.
Sink was one of several statewide candidates to attend the annual Possum Festival, though only she and U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a Republican agriculture commissioner candidate, actually ate the tough, chewy, beady-eyed mammal.
"I had possum when I was a child. I didn't eat it every week," said Sink, who was raised on a North Carolina farm and thus wasn't squeamish about poking her fork into the well-seasoned chunks of meat. "It was tender and tasty."
The top Republicans running for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum and millionaire Rick Scott, didn't attend the festival.
The possum festival is a tradition that has gone on for decades. Former state Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Democrat running for Sink's current job of chief financial officer, had a 1974 picture of her father at the festival when he ran for state Senate.
"That's the first time I came, when I was 10 years old," said Ausley, who, like the other candidates, bid on possums for the opportunity to stand on stage and hold the critter by the tail.
The candidates shake the creatures to keep from being bitten. So it may have been the only appropriate time to yell at a female candidate, "Shake it baby, shake it" — as one woman shouted while Ausley was on stage.
Sink handled her possum like a pro. When her husband, Bill McBride, ran for governor in 2002, she attended the festival.
"I had more trouble eight years ago. I had a much bigger possum. It tried to crawl up and bite me," Sink said.
Putnam was lucky enough to get the last serving of possum. He said he's eaten rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain oysters but this was his first taste of marsupial.
"It wasn't as greasy as I had heard. It tasted like pork pilau," Putnam said. "I assumed it was fried, like all good things. I was a little bit apprehensive that it was Crock-Pot possum because everything's good fried."
His Democratic opponent, former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, didn't eat possum.
"North Florida folks know that we don't really eat possum," Maddox said. "We just trick Washington politicians into paying money for it and eating it."