Weeki Wachee Mermaids Still Mesmerize 70 Years On
Feb 27, 2018 06:37AM
Weeki Wachee mermaids are also very accomplished out of the water. Katie, who is from Brooksville, is fluent in German. Photo courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
Gallery: Water World: March-April 2018: Dancing, Dazzling, in the Deep [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
While swimming underwater, the mermaids perform ballet moves synchronized to music, all to an audience in a 400-seat theater. The mermaids swim 16 to 20 feet below the surface in the basin of the springs, which is actually one of the deepest naturally formed springs in the United States.
While Weeki Wachee Springs State Park offers a range of things to do, such as enjoying Buccaneer Bay Waterpark, taking riverboat rides and watching wildlife shows, it’s the mermaids that really offer something out of the ordinary. “This is the only mermaid show of its kind in the world, as our venue is unique,” explains John Athanason, marketing and public relations manager of the park.
The Weeki Wachee mermaids have been performing since 1947, when roadside attractions were meant to “Wow!”—much like the GatorWorld Parks of Florida in Wildwood and the Coral Castle in Homestead. By the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was actually one of the nation’s most popular tourist attractions. After all these years, it’s still a popular attraction, and the park recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.
The mermaids are underwater for their entire 30-minute shows, as they breathe through hand-held air hoses. The process was created in 1946, by the founder of Weeki Wachee Spring’s underwater theater, Newton Perry. He was a former U.S. Navy man who trained naval frogmen to swim underwater in World War II.
What the mermaids do is no small feat, considering they perform while wearing fish tails, and swim in a strong current in 74-degree water. Their shows are The Little Mermaid, held Monday through Friday, and Fish Tails, on Saturday and Sunday.
Many come to see the shows again and again. “Every performance is a little different,” Athanason says. There are slight variances in the performances, and wildlife sometimes show up. “The guests really love when the natural wildlife are present during a show, especially when the turtles or manatees interact with the mermaids,” he adds.
Meet Mermaid Stayce
Where are you from?Miami, Florida
How long have you been a mermaid?16 years
What kind of experience or training did you have before becoming a mermaid?All my training has been at the park. (Training includes SCUBA certification, first aid, CPR and several months of training under water.)
Have you always loved the water?Growing up in Florida, I’ve always been around the water.
What do you love about performing?I love swimming for the guests, especially the kids.
What’s great about being part of a mermaid team?We are all very close. Swimming together every day, and making sure we are all safe, brings us closer. We spend a lot of time together at work, and on our personal time.
What is your favorite part of the show?I don’t really have a favorite part. Just knowing we are performing for our audience is good enough for both me and my fellow mermaids.
How did you get interested in becoming a mermaid?I grew up hearing about the Weeki Wachee Mermaids. When I moved to the area, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
What are your plans once you are no longer part of the show?I really have no immediate plans. I’ll keep swimming as long as I can.
IF YOU GO
ShowsThe Little Mermaid: 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday
Fish Tails: 1:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Tickets: (Daily admission price includes access to the mermaid show, Buccaneer Bay Waterpark, the wildlife show and riverboat rides.)
Children 6-12: $8; age 5 and under free
Written by Ann Marie O’Phelan, a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.