OCEAN CITY — Although it was billed as the 40th time the crusty one would creep onto the beach to make his annual prediction of an early arrival to summer, Martin Z. Mollusk was forced to bow to the elements and take his crawl indoors Thursday.
With fog limiting visibility to a few hundred feet and temperatures more March-like than May, organizers moved the pomp and ceremony indoors to the Music Pier, a first for the iconic event.
Despite a complete lack of sun and dim indoor lighting, and to the complete surprise of absolutely no one in the crowd who bore witness to the silliness that is the hallmark of this event, Martin saw his shadow. The feat was corroborated by Big Mama the Llama, a shaggy-haired pack animal that shook her head in agreement at the act, although it could just have easily been in agitation at her handler from Bready Farms in Tuckahoe.
The llama’s appearance in the Music Pier marked another first, as Martin Z. Mollusk creator Mark Soifer said no relative of the camel had ever been inside the famed auditorium before. As Big Mama is a vegetarian, fears that she would eat the star attraction were unfounded.
Throughout the 30-minute program, which featured music by the Ocean City High School band, proclamations and awards, an appearance by the Ocean City Fish (three fifth-grade girls wearing fish headdresses) and songs, one of which was written especially for the historic 40th anniversary event, Martin evidenced little interest in his surroundings.
Although Soifer called Martin “sort of a pomp-crazed hermit crab” and said the ancient arthropod “likes a lot of attention,” the 101-year-old (in hermit crab years) appeared almost comatose as he was feted. Or perhaps he is not nearly as sentimental as the man who bestowed fame upon him.
“This is very gut-wrenching for me,” Soifer said before closing the event with the “Martin Mollusk 40th Anniversary Tribute Song,” sung to the tune of “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music.” “I’ve been to them all. This is the greatest Martin program I’ve been to because it is different. I may break down.”
It was the only Martin Z. Mollusk event Kathy and John Hertzler, of Carlisle, Pa., had ever attended, but it may not be the last.
The couple, in town for a week to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary, said their familiarity with Pennsylvania’s Groundhog Day celebration had led them to check out Ocean City’s equivalent.
That, and the fact that “there’s nothing to do in Ocean City at this time of year,” John Hertzler said.
Kathy Hertzler was much more enthused and impressed with Martin Z. Mollusk’s prognostication abilities than her husband, and went so far as to call the event “exciting.”
“I thought it was great,” she said. “We might come every year for it from now on. We’ve been here since Saturday, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week. It didn’t disappoint.”
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