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Williamsport honors rodent mascot with special day

Williamsport honors rodent mascot with special day

Usually a source of anxiety for most people, the rat is beloved by some in Williamsport.

River Rat Day, an event where a giant rat mascot decides if there will be six more weeks of winter, depending on if he sees his shadow, will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Town Hall in Williamsport. Events throughout the town are related to the event.

“The mayor welcomes everybody to town. Every year, they get a river rat picture taken,” said Joan Knode, assistant mayor of Williamsport. “We get someone to dress like a river rat. The magician, Dean Burkett, does a magic trick. And then music plays, and the river rat dances around, and if he sees his shadow, there’s six more weeks of winter. He stays around because people like to take pictures of him for the next hour.”

The river rat logo can be traced back to the 1970s.

“River rat used to be the mascot of the middle and high school, years ago,” Knode said. “The people who had boats along the canal years ago were called river rats. That’s where that comes from. Mike Taylor and Mike Weber, they designed the river rat logo in 1974. At that time, they were on a track team, so it had a baton, but then, all the sports teams adopted the logo, so they took out the baton. They decided to change the river rat to a cougar for the Springfield Middle School. Still, Williamsport people call themselves river rats because we live so close to the river.”

This is the fifth year for the event.

“We had the first river rat at Doubleday Hill,” Knode said. “It goes right into the river, right down into the canal. … We moved it to uptown so merchants could participate. That’s been working really well.”

After the river rat decides the fate of the winter season, Williamsport will welcome a new business.

“It’s Rhodes Welding and Metal Work,” Knode said. “We’ll do a ribbon cutting there. They have created a ribbon rat welcome sign out of metal. They call it Metal Works, but it’s really metal art.”

Many restaurants and stores will have sales and discounts during the event.

“The merchants have really gotten into it this year,” Knode said.

Zelda’s Boutique is offering 35 percent off women’s fashions and 15 percent off all jewelry, and the owner is hiding a river rat. Whoever finds it in the shop will get a jewelry pop bracelet with two pops, which are like charms.

Desert Rose Cafe and Sweet Shoppe will sell a grilled cheese and broccoli cheddar strip for $6.29 and cheesecake slices for $2 each.

Canal View Candle and Barrel Co. created a cheesecake candle and is doing special pricing for River Rat Day.

Knode loves the excitement that River Rat Day generates among the people of Williamsport.

“It’s cool when all these people come out and usually have a river rat shirt on,” she said. “They get into it. They get loud. When the river rat comes around the corner, they really get into it. And the little kids love it.”

Top photo: Ratotomac Willie, Williamsport’s River Rat, will predict the weather at River Rat Day. (File photo)

If you go ...

WHAT: River Rat Day
WHERE: Town Hall, 2 N. Conococheague St., Williamsport 
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
COST: Free

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