By Maddy Vitale
Martin Z. Mollusk paraded onto the beach at Ninth Street in Ocean City on Saturday morning with an entourage, which included “Dancing With the Stars” professionals Emma Slater and Tristan MacManus.
The crustacean’s cage was held up in the air for the excited crowd to see. But as the clouds hung low, and the sun peeked ever so slightly from the clouds, it was anyone’s guess if the famous hermit crab would do as he had all 44 years before – see his shadow and predict summer would come a week early.
Predictably, the answer was yes, and the crowd erupted in applause and cheers.
Martin Z. Mollusk Day is Ocean City’s version of Groundhog Day in which the city’s hermit-crab mascot is called upon to predict the arrival the city’s favorite season. This was the 45th year for the wacky event.
Slater and MacManus joined in the fun and even judged the first dance of Ocean City’s life-sized Martin Z. Mollusk and Mollie S. Mollusk characters, introducing Mollie to the world.
Slater told the crowd she loved Ocean City, the people, the sand and the food – everything about the community.
MacManus, who was a long way from his home in Australia, told the audience that it was nice to be back in New Jersey. He said he lived in Somerville, N.J., for a time.
The two were in town for their show at the Music Pier, “Ballroom With a Twist.”
After the exciting entrance and dance of the mollusks, the team set up the real Martin Z. inside his hula hoop near his gem and seashell-studded throne.
Then Michael Hartman, Ocean City’s director of Special Events, pumped up the crowd.
Within seconds it was clear, Martin Z. Mollusk saw his shadow and the crowd roared.
Leslie Brown, of Ocean City, and her husband, Joe, brought their children O.J., 2, and Audrey, 4, to see Martin Z. Mollusk make his prediction.
O.J. had just one thing to say when the famous mollusks made their entrance. “Yay!” he shouted while his dad held him up to get the best view.
Audrey was more interested in seeing the actual hermit crabs. She wanted an early summer.
“They just couldn’t wait to get here,” Leslie said. “We hopped on our bikes and rode down from 33rd Street. These kinds of events are the reason we moved down here full time from the Philly suburbs.”
In addition to the early summer predictions, there was the Martin Z. Mollusk Coloring Contest.
There were 190 children ages 4-10 who entered.
The winners were as follows:
- Grace Kane, 7, Ocean City
- Addison Bechtold, 6, Ocean City
- Caden Rowe, 10, Ocean City
- Katie Mary Branin, 9, Ocean City
The winners received a gift bag from Ocean City merchants and two tickets to the Aug. 6 production of “Newsies.”
Jackie Teitler, of Ocean City, and her husband, Avery Teitler, brought their children, Ayla, 7, and Duke, 3, to check out the fanfare.
“It brings locals and visitors together,” Jackie said of the event. “It is such a kid-friendly event with a little friendly competition.”
Ayla was there to support her friend, who was one of the winners of the coloring contest.
“It is a pretty special event,” said Hartman, who hosted the spectacle. “It makes kids and adults smile. You see how the kids react. So many families came out when it isn’t even the start of the season yet. It really gives you a good feeling.”
Miss Ocean City Megan Keenan, Junior Miss Ocean City Julia Wilson and Little Miss Ocean City Stevie Wright and Mr. Mature America Jack Merritt participated in the zany event.
The three Ocean City pageant holders were born and raised in the resort.
“This is what it is all about. It is something we looked forward to and we are very excited and happy to be a part of this and the other events through the summer,” Megan said.
Julia said Martin Z. Mollusk Day really energizes everyone for the start of a great summer.
Stevie added with a big smile, “I just think it is a lot of fun.”