In Princess Anne, it’s Muskrat Love for Valentines

Salisbury resident Mariah Baum accepted a marriage proposal from her Princess Anne boyfriend Stephen Williamson during the Midnight Muskrat Dive.

Muskrats helped put the town of Princess Anne on the map. Main Street Princess Anne, a local nonprofit, hopes the enthusiasm for the cute rodent continues. 

Princess Anne is surrounded by pristine marshes that provide habitat for thousands of muskrats. The small, furry rodents nibble marsh grasses as they swim through brackish and fresh water, nearly undetected. In the wintertime, however, it is easy to spy muskrat lodges in the marsh. With a strong local heritage of hunting and trapping, in and around Princess Anne, muskrats have been sought after for their meat and for their fur, providing a source of income, food, and warmth for generations. Muskrats

While muskrat fur has fallen out of fashion, muskrat meat is still enjoyed with great enthusiasm. Local restaurants, churches, civic clubs, and lodges have long offered muskrat dinners to sold out crowds. Muskrat meat is an acquired taste but locals love the savory meat, which is usually seasoned with plenty of sage and served with gravy or in stew. Earlier this week, Princess Anne’s newest restaurant, Bubby’s Wing Shack, hosted a sold-out muskrat dinner, complete with “rat gravy.”

Muskrat is the draw on New Year’s Eve, too. In 2011, Princess Anne Town Commissioner Dennis Williams, along with a small but enthusiastic committee of volunteers, began the tradition of dropping a taxidermy muskrat on New Year’s Eve — ushering in the inaugural Midnight Muskrat Dive. Since that time, the tradition has continued and has attracted national media attention from CNN, USA Today, and others. Approximately 500 people ushered in 2020 with Marshall Muskrat. 

Since the muskrat mascot was selected, many muskrat lovers have gotten involved, contributing volunteer assistance and expertise. Princess Anne students named the mascot Marshall P. Muskrat. Local author and artist Jeanne du Nord penned several children’s books about the adventures of the muskrat. The first was published in 2012. Du Nord also created a Marshall Muskrat mascot costume for the town. Several years ago, town employee Tracy Grangier enlisted the help of her husband, who volunteered to taxidermy the current Marshall Muskrat. The taxidermy muskrat makes public appearances on New Year’s Eve and, periodically, throughout the year. University of Eastern Shore staff member Ronnie Haymaker worked diligently to hone the mechanics of dropping Marshall Muskrat — ensuring his safe dive into each New Year. In 2019, Jim Leether, a NASA employee and M4Reactor maker, contributed his expertise, adding an LED light display to the affair. Marshall Muskrat, though small, looked spectacular as he was lowered from the top of Independence Hall at midnight. 

Over the last nine years, thousands of people – from near and far – have come to downtown Princess Anne to usher in the New Year at the Midnight Muskrat Dive. As is tradition, lots of people kiss, too — under the glow of the well-loved rodent. 

As it turns out, the muskrat has also inspired love. In 2016, Salisbury resident Mariah Baum accompanied her Princess Anne boyfriend Stephen Williamson to the Midnight Muskrat Dive to celebrate their first New Year’s Eve, together. This year, they came back to the event and, as the countdown began, Williamson asked Baum to marry him. She said yes – so, now, Princess Anne has a real muskrat love story. 

Over the years, Main Street District businesses heard numerous requests for Princess Anne souvenirs from their customers. Now, Main Street Princess Anne aims to fulfill those requests and to share the love with all those who love the quirky little town. 

Inspired by Marshall Muskrat and those who love him, Main Street Princess Anne manager Carrie Samis collaborated with artist Erick Sahler to create art for a new Muskrat Love/Love Princess Anne campaign, which launches this week. Beginning on Valentine’s Day, Princess Anne visitors can grab some cool new souvenirs, including postcards, vinyl stickers, and buttons. If public response is enthusiastic, additional items may be available in the future. 

During the month of February, win prizes from Main Street Princess Anne:

– Flowers from Priceless Flowers

– Wine from Junior’s Wine.

– Gift Certificate from Somerset Choice Station Antiques.

– Tea from Princess Anne Book Lovers Inn & Tea Cafe.

– One night stay at The Washington Inn & Tavern.

Enter to win by sharing your love for Princess Anne! 

Share your love stories, photos of people & places you love, and your best Princess Anne photos and use these hashtags: #LovePrincessAnne #MuskratLove and #Muskrat .

The website is mainstreetprincessanne.org

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