LITCHFIELD — Proving that anything can sell with the right auctioneers, former Litchfield Superior Court judges Anne Dranginis and Charles Gill lightheartedly spoke about the provenance of a vintage witness stand and the veracity of those who sat in it during trials, which was up for auction at the annual Possum Queen Festival on New Year’s Day in Litchfield. The happy new owner of an authentic courthouse icon cheerfully paid $700.
Another hit was a retro drive-in movie package for 40 people at the Pleasant Valley Drive-In theater in Barkhamsted, following a gourmet dinner. The unique offering donated by John Roller, owner of the Tavern on the Green restaurant, drew a high bid of $6,000.
The stated mission of the Possum Queen Foundation is “to provide financial and advisory assistance to people located in Northwest Connecticut who have come upon financial hardship due to medical and related expenses.” The group, which loosely formed 30 years ago in a local pub to raise enough money to help one local child, has been on an amazing trajectory to become an incorporated non-profit with a legion of volunteers and regular financial supporters that bring philanthropy to new heights.
The group found the perfect venue in The Litchfield Inn, where the event took over the first floor of the inn with greeting tables, a large silent auction with 160 items ready for bidding, a pop-up event bar, and a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds in the ballroom where a lively auction was orchestrated by Eric Hummel.
Doors opened an hour early, in order to claim seats in the ballroom, and the front row seats for next year were even an auction offering, for those who didn’t want to stand in the back for several hours. An hour later, the parking lot at the Litchfield Inn was filled to the rim by resourceful drivers.
The event vacillated between staggering generosity to help local families with medical hardships and good old-fashioned fun. Steve Sage of Cornwall paid $64,500 for a can of creamed possum soup. The emcee and auctioneer sprinkled their patter with hilarity, and a group dressed as the Village People, along with popular Litchfield singer-songwriter Ian Campbell, costumed as Scooby-Doo, frolicked in near-naughtiness comedy skits.
Testimony on a poster in the foyer that was signed “from the Kelly Family” expressed gratitude for the help they have received from the Possum Queen Foundation for their two sons, Jacob and Liam, who have been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Melanie Kelly of Torrington also gave a lovely singing performance in front of the crowd.
Joe Fasciano of Goshen watched as his nine-year-old son Evan, who has a rare skin condition and difficulty in walking, was flying up and down the aisles with a special wheeled walker given by the Possum Queen Foundation.
The day after the event, Board Member Lesley Budny said they were still tallying the total, but, “With all the sponsors and such, if we add everything in, the sum should be close to $130,000, our best ever.” The event is their largest annual fundraiser and PQF now is well funded to offer grants and support to new recipients — children and families that are facing medical challenges and hardships.
The Possum Queen Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 non-profit and can be contacted at www.possumqueenfoundation.org/.