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The Little Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs

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Gather round friends, have I a special retro find to share with you today! The all but forgotten art of the Underwater Mermaid Show. Oh yes…feast your eyes on this:

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Back in the 1950s in the sunny state of Florida, the Weeki Wachee Springs was a unique and popular destination, thanks to the beautiful mermaids who performed there daily. The attraction was created in 1947 by an ex-Navy frogman named Newton Perry. Perry based the show on an innovative underwater air hose breathing technique. He built an 18-seat theatre into the limestone at the edge of a spring and recruited pretty young girls to be his mermaids.

“Without masks, mermaids learn to take gulps of air from the hose, balancing the pressure on their ears and sinuses while being buffeted by a 12-mile-an-hour (19-kilometer-an-hour) current. They also learned to drink beverages and eat underwater.” source

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Eventually ABC bought the property and created a much larger 200 seat theater. This unique underwater theater was embedded in the side of Weeki Wachee springs 16 feet below the surface. The glamorous mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs performed eight shows a day to sold out crowds who thrilled to the sight of these underwater beauties.

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The “mermaids” captivated the crowds with a variety of themed shows with elaborate props, music, and story lines — Underwater Circus, the Mermaids and the Pirates, and Underwater Follies. They even performed underwater renditions of classics like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Snow White.

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Being a Weeki Wachee mermaid was considered quite the honor, with girls coming from as far away as Tokyo to try out for the privilege of becoming a mermaid. The mermaids were treated like royalty wherever they went in Florida. And who wouldn’t love to be seen with these beauties???

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The attraction was a definitely a family affair with guests of all ages heading to this quirky destination:

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Even celebs couldn’t resist heading the mermaids— Don Knotts, Esther Williams, Arthur Godfrey and even ELVIS all paid a little visit to the Weeki Wachee (the name kills me….could I possible say WEEKI WACHEE more times in this post??).

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Amazingly you can still travel to the Weeki Watchee(ding ding ding!) and see the mermaids. The New York Times also visited recently and has an video of the current show. You can check it out here. Have you ever been to see the mermaids??

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Posted in Vintage Pop Culture.

7 Responses

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  1. Karen says

    Oooh, I have a wonderful book to lend you all about this!!!!

  2. Laura says

    Oh my! I saw a show like this twice in San Marcos, TX at Aquarena Springs 🙂 Totally amazed me…. I took my daughter their 5 years ago and the mermaids were no longer there, nor was the glass bottom boat that I had remembered…. the movies may be gettng better special effects but the real fun stuff seems to be fading away 🙁
    Thanks for this beautiful post! I will show my 6 year old tomorrow.

  3. lishyloo says

    i saw these on the paris and nicole show where they road tripped. it was really amazing actually trying to watch those two do the show, it’s hard!!!

    • Alix says

      no way! did they actually let them try to do it??? hahaha love it!

  4. Lynn Landry says

    My grandparents went to this and I would spend a lot of time pouring over the brochures they brought back. We went to Florida’s Silver Springs, tho. Where the main attraction was a ride in a glass bottom boat. I found this:

Continuing the Discussion

  1. modular blocks for kids – real mermaid swimmers – printable coloring page | Small for Big linked to this post on July 26, 2013

    […] If we lived anywhere near Florida, Weeki Wachee Springs, via Modern Kiddo. […]

  2. Florida Bound! - Our Natural Heritage linked to this post on August 25, 2015

    […] This article provides a great history of the Weeki Wachee […]

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