By JULIE E. GREENE
7:25 PM EST, January 28, 2013
Forget about Punxsutawney Phil, the Town of Williamsport is holding its first River Rat Day on Saturday, Groundhog Day, to see if the “River Rat” — an actual rat — sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter.
Town Councilwoman Joan Knode came up with the idea for River Rat Day.
The River Rat Day ceremony will be held on Doubleday Hill at the end of West Salisbury Street beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. The ceremony will have a master of ceremonies, but is not expected to last long, she said.
The town has been selling “Bring Back the Rat” T-shirts for a year or so, with proceeds helping to fund community events, Knode said.
The River Rat used to be the mascot for Springfield Middle School and other sports clubs in town, Knode said.
There also are some old-timers in town who like to refer to themselves as river rats, Knode said.
Knode said she got the idea to have River Rat Day because there isn’t much going on around town this time of year.
“It’s just because, I think everybody’s stir crazy and needs something to get excited about,” Knode said.
Knode wrote a fictional history of the river rat that has it witnessing much of the town’s history.
She paid for a rat costume she ordered from Amazon.com, which someone will wear to Saturday’s ceremony, but there also will be an actual rat.
Councilman Bill Green, who owns the Reptile Crib, a business in town, buys rats to sell as food for the reptiles, he said.
A white rat has been selected from a rodent farm for Saturday’s event, Green said. Unlike common rats, rats from rodent farms tend to be calmer and tamer, he said.
After the ceremony, the rat will probably become someone’s pet, he said. Once the rat leaves the controlled area, it cannot be sold as food, he said.
Knode said people who wear “Bring Back the Rat” T-shirts on Saturday can take advantage of specials and discounts at shops in the town’s center, Knode said. Participating shops will have a River Rat Day poster in their window or shop, she said.
People can buy River Rat T-shirts at Town Hall for $10, Knode said. The T-shirts will be sold Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, she said.
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