Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where the Mermaids Swim

Magnet # 150:  Weeki Wachee Logo

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Over sixty years ago, a former Navy frogman, or scuba diver, named Newton Perry had an idea -  to use an air compressor to feed air through a hose, supplying it to underwater swimmers in a completely new way.  Once he had developed his "hose breathing" system, Perry created an underwater theatre that looked out into Weeki Wachee Springs, a natural Florida spring that was so deep no one was sure where it ended.  And then he added real girls in mermaid costumes performing underwater dances and audiences have been enchanted ever since.  I think I'd heard of this roadside attraction before, but watching it pop up repeatedly on the Travel Channel really brought it to my attention.  I definitely wanted to see this amazing place, and I knew who the perfect travel companion would be for the trip - my friend and talented fantasy artist Lindsay Archer.  She's produced some gorgeous mermaids of her own over the years, and I figured seeing the ones at Weeki Wachee would be a big inspiration for her - any maybe me, too.

The only problem we had with Weeki Wachee was a lack of communication on their part about their hours, etc. Usually, the hours of touristy locales are published in the travel guides I get from AAA, but not in this case - I only knew it opened at ten. And when you call their phone number, an employee doesn't always pick up (of course, I'm not sure if I was calling during their open hours). Also, part of their complex is Buccaneer Bay, a waterpark that is shut down for part of the year. It was a little confusing, and we thought that Weeki Wachee was actually closed for a little while. And when we were on our way down there, I called to try to figure out when it closed only to have an employee pick up the line and tell me that the last show of the day had already been sold. Apparently, they're open from 10-3. It would have been nice to find that out before hand, but at least we finally knew - and before we got off of the Interstate. So we headed back up to Spring Hill the next morning.

Once we got to the Weeki Wachee, we were really impressed. There are mermaid statues all along the front, and one very tall statue of two swimmers. I realize this compound is somewhat old, but they have done a nice job keeping it up - it's a very pretty place. I bought this magnet at the gift shop, while Lindsay showed off some of her amazing mermaid art to the manager, who seems open to selling it in the future. Apparently, they are going to renovate the store soon, so I guess we got there at just the right time. I really hope that works out for Lindsay. And then, we saw the mermaids. Really, it was just fantastic - it was kind of like an aquarium, complete with fishes and turtles, but it's the only one that also features mermaids. Sure, they're girls with fabric fins, but you forget about that watching them. You also don't really notice their breathing tubes.  The show we caught was a performance of "The Little Mermaid" and it was nicely done.  The mermaids danced in songs and portrayed all of the parts of the play, even coming inside with the audience for a little bit.  It even had a happy ending, unlike the original version.  Those mermaids did a fantastic job - we were both blown away and Lindsay took around 400 photos with her professional camera.  I definitely recommend seeing this incredible place if you get the chance.

Weeki Wachee also has exotic bird shows and a riverboat cruise, but we didn't get a chance to see them.  However, if you do travel all the way out to Spring Hill to see the mermaids, you might want to stop by its neighbor, Brooksville, and see its own pretty cool attraction, Rogers' Christmas House.  It was opened in 1969 by Margaret Rogers, who began selling Christmas gifts from her Victorian home.  Thanks to her success, she was able to later purchase more homes, turning her Christmas store into a five building village.   Although Rogers has passed away, her attraction lives on.  Lindsay and I were impressed by the great deal of work that clearly went into this village.  Each house has a theme, like the Storybook house, and the Little House Under the Oak.  Detailed murals have been painted on the walls, items move thanks to electricity, and even some ceilings are covered in decorations.  Every Christmas item you could ever need is here, from ornaments to Nativities to trees to strings of lights.  While we were there, I got an ornament of Florida.  It seemed appropriate to me.  All in all, we had a really good time seeing two of the best tourist locales in Florida's Hernando County, where Roadside America is alive and well, no matter what season is underway. 

2 comments:

  1. Just wondering, but did they discuss anything about the history of his place? I can't help but wonder if this attraction, with girls swimming in bikinis had something of a naughty reputation or met with any protests, especially years ago during the 50's when it first opened.

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  2. I didn't think to ask - from what I could tell, there not a history exhibit or anything like that at Weeki Wachee. But, in what research I've found on the Internet for the trip and this article, it seems to have been embraced since it's beginning. Still, you have to figure there were a few objectors...

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