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For 35 years, our pesky hermit crab Mascot, Martin Z. Mollusk, has loyally served Ocean City. On the first Thursday in May, he ventures on to the Moorlyn Terrace Beach and attempts to see his shadow. If he does, summer arrives one week early at this family community and resort. A one week extension of the season is nothing to sneeze at in these competitive times. It's a nice bonus for residents, vacationers, the kids and of course the business folk.

No one can say Martin hasn't come through for Ocean City. During his 35 year tenure he has seen his shadow 34 times. Once he saw a partial shadow and summer arrived 3 ½ days early. It has been an astounding record.

For this reason the First Night Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and City have decided to honor the loyal crab on the eve of the New Year. His portrait appears on all First Night Admission buttons and on its official program. Martin will be represented at First Night opening ceremonies, 4p.m. Friday at the Music Pier, by a new costumed character commissioned and purchased by his friends at the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. The City has placed his image on all 2011 Beach Tags so that bathers may enjoy his portrait as they bask in the sun.

To give back to the community, as if he hasn't already done enough, Martin has re-published his classic biography, The Martin Z. Mollusk story, Rhyme and Punishment, and will give free copies (while they last) to those who attend First Night opening ceremonies.

I am Martin's spiritual advisor and chef plus the only one who can communicate with him. I do this by a method of osmosis. It's an uncanny ability I was born with, can't explain it. Martin, who is getting up there in hermit crab years, has confided in me that he is concerned about his legacy. He wants his story to live on as an inspiration to hermit crabs and others that no matter how humble your beginnings one can become a success through hard work and determination.

Martin, sad to say, was abandoned by his parents along the Zambezi River in Africa. He eventually made his way to Tepid Swamp, Louisiana where he attended Tepid Tech, honed his weather prognostication skills and met his future wife, the former Mollie Shellfish. Martin's biography documents the details in rhyme. It traces his arrival in Ocean City where he has become a Crustacean legend and illustrates some of his feats with photos.

This book is a must for all Ocean City enthusiasts. It is available to those who do not attend First Night at Sun Rose Words and Music in the 700 block of Asbury Ave. for $5. All five dollars will be donated to the Ocean City Food Cupboard, the Hermit Crab's favorite charity.

"I'm just so thankful that no one has ever tried to eat me," he says. "And besides, the Food Cupboard is a very important charity, especially with so many folks out of work. I'm lucky to have a good job!"

First Night offers over 70 entertainment programs at central locations from 4 p.m. till midnight on New Year's Eve capped by a fireworks display. Admission buttons also entitle First Nighters to the rides and miniature golf at Wonderland Pier plus Gillian's Island Golf Course at 7th and Boardwalk.

There is entertainment for all ages: magicians, puppets, Jim Albertson story teller, etc. for children plus the rides and miniature golf; Trout Fishing in America, the Grammy nominated children/adult entertainers, Back Beat, the Beatles Tribute group, the popular Japanese Drummers, the Fabulous Grease Band, the Hegeman String Band, a Big Band Dance, the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, The Broadway Play, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown and much, much more.

First Night Buttons are available every day from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. at Downtown Gillian's, 838B Asbury Ave. for just $14. Beatles tribute tickets are $3, the only extra charge. Call 609-391-0060 or buy on line at www.firstnightocnj.com.

First Night is followed by First Day at the Beach plus First Day in Downtown Asbury Ave. on January 1. First Day at the Beach starts 11 a.m. with an ice sculpture demonstration and free photos with Martin Mollusk in a Lifeboat. A 5 K run begins at 1 p.m. with registration at noon. Both events start at the Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace. There is a $20 entrance fee for the race with long sleeve shirts given to participants while they last. The popular First Dip in the Ocean begins at 2 p.m. on the Moorlyn Terrace Beach by the Music Pier. Entrance is free with all participants receiving a Beach Nut Certificate signed by Martin Mollusk. Shoppers will be able to benefit from bargains in the downtown Asbury Avenue Shopping district from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For information, call 609-525-9300.

Let's end our last column of the year with a poem about calendars.

Advice for December 31

Throw old calendars away-

Begin a new one, don't delay-

You can't afford to miss a day-

Print neatly in the open spaces-

The times, the places, specifications-

And don't forget your obligations-

Record the things you have to do-

Your calendar will see you through

Another year of being you...

--------- Mark Soifer

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