Thanks to our pals over at Roadside Online we hear that rumors are flying ’round the internet that the mermaid show in Weeki Wachee Florida might be too tacky to be included in what now has turned into Weeki Wachee State Park. Within the past few years the fate of The City of Live Mermaids has been in jeopardy as families drive past in search of more “extreme” family fun. So bump the kitschy city of Weeki Wachee to the top of your list of 2010 Retro Roadmap destinations, in case this bit of Florida roadside history ends up on the endangered species list.
Weeki Wachee is a Seminole Indian name for “little spring” or “winding river” and the mermaid show has been located at this natural fresh water spring since 1947. Story goes that the bottom of this fresh water spring has never been found, which is pretty cool if you ask me. When you visit the park you can take a boat tour of the winding river admiring the flora and fauna, which we did, but who are we kidding? We came here for the Mermaids!
The Mermaid show attraction was started by Newton Perry a former US Navy frogman, who developed a way of staying under water for extended periods of time by breathing through an air hose. He taught pretty local gals to use this technique and perform choreographed water ballet at the same time. The mermaids don’t swim in a man made pool- the theater was built into the basin of the Weeki Wachee spring so folks could see the show through the clear spring water.
When we were there we found the place charming with the giant seashell to sit in for a photo, big gold fish swimming in the ponds, manatees visible from the slow boat ride through the river and concrete alligators dotting the paths. The Mermaid Theater was a bit dark and dank (um, what else should I expect from an underground water theater??) but recently carpeting on the walls of the theater was pulled back to reveal original ceramic tiles in those fabulous Florida colors of teal, pink and aqua.
While the mermaid show is geared towards a kid audience with its reference to The Little Mermaid, I found it to be wonderfully dated in places, in a way that made me feel like I was watching one of the original shows from the 1950′s. I have to admit to being caught up in the grace and beauty of the mermaids and swimmers floating effortlessly in front of us as we sat in the darkened underground theater, as folks had been doing for 60+ years before us.
Do yourselves a favor and follow the siren song of this unique American roadside attraction and visit it soon, lest it not be there much longer. Support these fine finned fillies and the fond Florida vacation memories they have created for all of us.
Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show
6131 Commercial Way
Spring Hill, FL 34606
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