Travel & Outdoors | 23 November 2016Discover Florida’s Incredible Mermaid Show Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Florida has a long coastline, beautiful beaches, and Disney World. But really, its more than just the Keys and theme parks. It has some beautiful back roads and hidden treasures, like this incredible mermaid show in Weeki Wachee. Get more hidden secrets in Backroads of Florida. A TREASURE OF OLD FLORIDA In 1946, a former Navy frogman named Newton Perry had a wild idea for a business. What if pretty girls used air hoses instead of scuba tanks to breath underwater while doing ballet-like aquatic routines? Would tourists pay to see something like that? With little more than an idea, he scouted around for a site, settling on Weeki Wachee Springs for his enterprise. His first job was to clean out the spring and remove the wrecked cars and junk that filled it. He then built an eighteen-seat theater below water level where visitors could look through a window directly into the sparkling clear waters of the spring and watch the mermaids cavort. Then, as now, the mermaids were mostly local girls who were trained to swim underwater, breathe through air hoses, and perform such unique underwater tasks as eating bananas and drinking soda. In addition to the mermaid show, Weeki Wachee featured a river cruise, orchid gardens, and a beach created from river sand. In the early days, attendance was low, but as word got out visitors began arriving in droves. In 1959, the park was purchased by ABC, and the subsequent publicity (along with the addition of professional-level staging, props, and choreography) turned Weeki Wachee Springs into Florida’s top tourist attraction. ABC expanded the theater to five hundred seats and presented eight shows a day. Celebrities like Elvis Presley came to see the show, and the glamour of being a mermaid drew applicants from around the world. While mermaids often traveled extensively as ambassadors for the park and for Florida, the work of being a mermaid was extremely demanding and sometimes dangerous. Even today there is a strong sisterhood among mermaids, past and present. The saying is “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid.” Sadly, competition from Disney World, which opened in 1971, impacted Weeki Wachee Springs. Attendance dropped and revenues suffered. More recently, an argument with the powerful Florida Water Management District over the man made beach threatened to close the facility, raising cries of despair from people of all ages across the country who consider the Weeki Wachee mermaid show an indispensable part of Florida history. Fortunately, another powerful entity, the Florida State Parks, stepped in and took over the park in 2008. With plans for improving the park and promises that the mermaid show will continue, the future looks bright for young girls everywhere who dream of being a real Weeki Wachee mermaid. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Forget what you think you know about visiting Florida–Backroads of Florida will lead you to explore lush forests, pristine lakes, and otherworldly swamps! Can you still find untouched stretches of velvety sand and warm waves in the Sunshine State? Yes! More than ever! From the funky, timeless charm of Key West to the haunted history of Amelia Island, veteran travel writers Paul M. Franklin and Nancy Mikula will introduce you to another side of Florida, where quiet rural byways and quirky roadside charm lie just beyond the glittering coastal cities and trendy beach resorts. This is the second edition of Backroads of Florida, and it contains all-new routes along timeless roads with new, vibrant photography and pithy stories of what can be found on your drive through bucolic backroads. As you explore the roads less traveled, you’ll follow in the footsteps of the Spanish explorers, pirates, and cowboys who shaped Florida’s early history. Whether it’s skimming across the Everglades in an airboat, snorkeling with manatees in a crystalline river, or paddling your kayak through a cypress swamp teeming with alligators, orchids, and tropical birds, there’s a world of excitement and beauty waiting for you. Leave Disney World and the hectic bustle of Miami Beach to the tourists. With this book, you’ve got a one-of-a-kind trip in store. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.