“Martin is 102 — 102 years old in hermit crab years,” deadpanned Mark Soifer, Ocean City’s public relations director. Despite the merriment overall, there was a serious moment when the late Daniel Bready, an Upper Township businessman and community leader, was honored for his longtime support of Martin Z. Mollusk Day. Soifer presented a plaque to Bready’s family. Minutes earlier, Dr. Frankenstein, portrayed by Ron MacCloskey of Edison, and his trusty sidekick, Nurse Perfect, played by Rachel Ballezzi of Ocean City, had checked Martin’s vital signs and pronounced the (allegedly) 102-year-old hermit crab healthy enough to handle his stressful weather-predicting duties. “It’s pretty crazy,” Ryan Gerhart said. “I certainly was not expecting to see something like this.” This year, Goatie McEntire stepped in for the now-retired Big Momma Llama to watch over Martin. The goat and llama both come from Bready Farms in Tuckahoe. Not only was he thrust into his traditional role of prognosticator during Martin Z. Mollusk Day, but he also had to be a prestidigitator. Just in time, Martin and his handlers whipped out a flashlight to serve as a substitute for the missing sun and — Presto! — the crusty crustacean spotted his shadow during his 44th annual creep on the beach in front of an amused crowd. Soifer, 84, who is retiring at year’s end after spending 45 years as the city’s public relations guru, created Martin Z. Mollusk Day in the 1970s. It is a spoof of Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog that emerges from hibernation every February to predict whether there will be six more weeks of winter. Soifer, tongue firmly planted in cheek, reminded the spectators that Martin’s predictions have been correct every year. Martin stands inside the “Circle of Truth” to validate his forecasts. By Donald WittkowskiOcean City’s famous weather-forecasting hermit crab, Martin Z. Mollusk, had his hands, er, his claws full Saturday morning. Martin was accompanied by his wife, Molly Shellfish, while making a grand entrance onto the beach in a small cage carried by his handlers. He was plunked down on a tiny, bejeweled and seashell-studded throne after he wowed the crowd with his prediction for an early summer. Capt. Claw the Pirate, played by Boardwalk business owner Doug Jewell, provided security and crowd control while Dr. Frankenstein and Nurse Perfect attended to Martin. In addition, the World’s Only Wind Chimes Band serenaded the crowd with a musical selection. Ryan and Nicole Gerhart, visitors from Chalfont, Pa., blundered into the Martin Z. Mollusk hoopla. The Gerharts, along with their 2-year-old daughter Lianey and 1-year-old daughter Jocelyn, looked on with amusement as the spectacle unfolded next to the Music Pier. In Martin’s case, his eagerly awaited appearance on the beach each May is accompanied by a retinue of colorful characters. Martin Z. Mollusk Day is just one in a series of wacky publicity stunts that Soifer has dreamed up over the years to draw media coverage and tourists to town. Goatie McEntire was on hand to confirm that Martin actually saw his shadow. The brown male goat nodded his head in agreement when the climactic moment arrived. “Yes, yes, he does see his shadow, folks. That means an early summer,” exclaimed Dr. Frankenstein. There was no sun out during a gray and overcast day, so Martin had to magically conjure up a way for him to see his shadow in order to fulfill his perennial prediction that summer will arrive one week early in this beachfront town.