OCEAN CITY — A prognosticator of the crustacean variety made his annual weather prediction on the city’s beach Saturday morning, paving the way for summer to begin.

Even under semi-cloudy skies, Martin Z. Mollusk saw his shadow, predicting an early summer for America’s Greatest Family Resort — as he has every year for more than four decades — during a ceremony on the Ninth Street beach.

Nancy Beale, 63, of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, joked she paid top dollar for her seat on a bench on the nearby Music Pier to catch a glimpse of the sometimes-shy decapod. In years past, Martin’s handlers have sometimes had to use flashlights to get the desired outcome.

Beale just bought a home in the city in January, she said, and plans to stay for the summer.

“Anything Ocean City does that promotes the community getting together is cool,” she said. “It’s part of the fun of the place.”

And this year’s event was a little different. It included the introduction of Martin’s mate, Mollie S. Mollusk. They’ve been married for more than 45 years, according to a news release, but no one has ever seen or heard of her.

Tom and Kathy Branin, a local couple, said Mollie’s debut is a nod toward gender equality.

“She’s the supportive shell behind Martin,” said Kathy, 48.

For some, the event, and vacationing in the city, is a generations-long tradition.

Brian Shollenberger, 53, of Avondale, Pennsylvania, said it was his second time bringing his wife and two sons to the ceremony, but his family has been visiting the resort for 100 years.

Conceding they sometimes “cheat a little” by using a flashlight, he said it’s a fun way to kick off the summer.

Before the actual crabs were brought out for the ceremony, two costumed versions were escorted onto the sand by Emma Slater and Tristan MacManus, of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The costumed crabs had their first dance to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea,” for which they received perfect scores from Slater and MacManus.

And then, it was time.

Martin and Mollie — the real versions — were carried down to the beach, where they were placed inside a small yellow hoop on the sand. Within seconds, the verdict was in — Martin had seen his shadow, and summer was going to start a week early.

He was placed on a mirrored and jeweled throne, and the ritual was complete.

The Branins said they are “staunch supporters” of the city’s hermit crab mascots. Their daughter, Kate, 9, was one of four winners of the Martin and Mollie coloring contest, something she’s been striving toward for a couple years.

Other winners were Grace Kane, 7, Addison Bechtold, 6, and Caden Rowe, 10, all of Ocean City.

While the event was lighthearted, the crabs stand for much more, said Tom Branin, 55. Martin and Mollie are a symbol for the people of the city, both tourists and residents.

“There are so many opportunities to grow out of your shell,” Tom Branin said. “There are so many opportunities in Ocean City — just find a new shell.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 mbilinski@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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