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Party for the rat set for Oct. 4

Long-time owners of York County eateries, the Randazzo family doesn’t need a reason to throw a good party. But they’ve found an unlikely one.

They want to bring back the rat.

Customers at The River Rat want the iconic rat statue back. The figure of a rat waving from his trolling boat bathtub marked one of the area’s earliest and most successful restaurants in Lake Wylie. The original River Rat closed in 2010 after a 31-year run in the community. The restaurant at 5301 Highway 557 spent a short time as Twin Rivers before the Randazzos opened a new restaurant earlier this year with the old River Rat name.

Alesandra Randazzo said customers are warming to the new River Rat.

“People seem to really love the newness of it,” she said, “but also the old idea of it.”

Part of that old idea is people wanting to see the rat again. The Powell family kept the rat when they closed in 2010. It will take about $5,000 to purchase, repair, repaint and install the rat to its original perch.

The Save the Rat Campaign began earlier this month and a party is set 1-4 p.m. Oct. 4 with The Michaels performing beach music and oldies. Free appetizers will be served, and customers can make donations to the cause. There also will be raffles.

“The customers are the ones who want this,” Randazzo said. “That’s the only reason we’re doing this.”

The members of the band performing at the fundraiser understand. Mikie Huffman and Michael Gatlin live in Mooresville, N.C., where a popular restaurant has a large moose mascot the town only lets out on holidays and special events.

“It sounds like it’s a landmark that the community wants back,” Huffman said.

Huffman plays acoustic guitar and piano, and sings. Gatlin plays the guitar. They’ve played with the same group, but never together. Oct 4 will be the first gig they’ll perform as The Michaels. Rehearsing for a week for a first performance only adds to the unusual nature of a party to buy back and install an giant rat.

The owners hope to raise enough money to bring back what customers clamor for, but they aren’t taking the campaign too seriously. They’re also looking for a good time on a Saturday afternoon, a cause they can see many getting behind.

“Pretty much just bringing the community together,” Randazzo said. “Everybody who wants to save the rat.”