Tail Talk: Weeki Wachee Mermaids at Newport Aquarium

By Madison Wallace, Newport Aquarium PR Aide

Mermaid Taylor interacts with children while swimming in Newport Aquarium's Coral Reef tunnel.

Mermaid Taylor interacts with children while swimming in Newport Aquarium’s Coral Reef tank.

NEWPORT, Ky. — Guests visiting Newport Aquarium might be surprised and delighted to find that mermaids have joined the finned inhabitants of our Coral Reef exhibit.

For the second year in a row, the Weeki Wachee Mermaids have made their way upstream from their home in Weeki Wachee, Fla.

Weeki Wachee is home to the deepest naturally occurring spring in North America. Crystal clear and seemingly bottomless, this spring is the highlight of the 538-acre Florida state park—and happens to be home to more mermaids than humans!

Looking into the pristine waters of Weeki Wachee Springs, it seems as though the spring should be inhabited by mermaids.

In 1947, Newton Perry, a U.S. Navy veteran, was inspired by this very vision and purchased the springs.

Seeing a potential business, Perry invented a more natural-looking method of underwater breathing and constructed a 16-seat underwater theater alongside the spring.

As a previous Navy diving trainer, Perry was more than capable of teaching aspiring mermaids to perform 20-feet under the water breathing off of air hoses—in a tail no less!

In no time, Perry’s mermaids began to attract attention, performing shows daily.

By the 1950s, women were traveling from as far as Tokyo to audition to become a Weeki Wachee Mermaid, and celebrities like Elvis were attending shows.

Elvis Presley visited the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in 1961.

Elvis Presley visited the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in 1961.

For the past 60 years, Weeki Wachee has carried on the same mysterious and enchanting legacy of mermaids, and has since become a Fla. State Park—technically making the Weeki Wachee mermaids government employees!

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park continues to offer three mermaid shows daily, based on the story of “The Little Mermaid”.

In addition to performing, the Weeki Wachee Mermaids have hit the road, traveling as far the United Kingdom, and regularly visit aquariums across the U.S.

But … What does it take to become a traveling, Weeki Wachee Mermaid?

Well, according to Mermaid Chelsea, almost a full year of intense training.

“It’s not like ‘here’s a mermaid tail, here’s an air hose, breathe’,” said Mermaid Chelsea, laughing. “It’s a step-by-step process.”

After becoming scuba certified (which is a requirement), mermaid trainees first practice all of the underwater choreography without a tail, learning how to master the constant 5 mph currents present in the springs.

Mermaid Chelsea has been a professional mermaid for 3 1/2 years.

Mermaid Chelsea has been a professional mermaid for 3 1/2 years.

The next step is to practice the same choreography 20-feet underwater, breathing through an air hose. Only after those are mastered, do mermaid trainees attempt them in a tail.

But, once you pass your mermaid test, you’re basically a mermaid for life.

“Once you’re in, it’s like a mermaid sorority. We’re all so close,” said Mermaid Chelsea. “We have to trust one another with everything we do.”

An average day in the life of a mermaid often includes two to three hours of underwater performances, and often features appearances from manatees, sea turtles, otters and even alligators.

The Weeki Wachee Mermaids also regularly perform choreographed shows at aquariums, but here at Newport Aquarium, they have the opportunity to interact with each guest one-on-one.

“I love Newport Aquarium. I love the fact that it’s up close and personal. Every kid almost gets his or her own personal interaction with a mermaid!,” said Mermaid Chelsea.

The Weeki Wachee Mermaids at Newport Aquarium can be seen swimming in the Coral Reef tank from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. through Oct. 12.

After encountering these amazing creatures here at Newport Aquarium, it’s possible that you might just be interested in becoming one yourself.

“Just keep swimming. Really practice, and feel free to come try out. We have tryouts all the time!,” said Mermaid Chelsea.

But, if you’re not interested in quitting your day job, Weeki Wachee Springs also offers weekend-long Adventures of the Spring Mermaid Camps for children and Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camps for adults.

###

Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky jewel attraction is home to: The world’s first and only Shark Bridge; the world’s first Shark Ray Breeding Program; Mighty Mike – the biggest and baddest American alligator outside the state of Florida; the largest and most diverse collection of sharks in the Midwest; and one of the world’s largest and most diverse penguin exhibits. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Stay Hooked In: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | YouTube

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Weeki Wachee Mermaids return to Newport Aquarium Sept. 25-Oct. 12

Special engagement extended to 18 days for 2015 due to popular demand

Mermaids2015_GoogleCoverPhoto

NEWPORT, Ky. — The world-famous Mermaids from Weeki Wachee Springs (Fla.) State Park will return to Greater Cincinnati this fall to enchant Newport Aquarium guests Sept. 25 through Oct. 12.

“The Weeki Wachee Mermaids tremendously enjoyed their visit to Newport Aquarium in 2014,” said John Athanason, spokesperson for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. “Because of the overwhelmingly positive response we received last year from the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky community, we have extended the Weeki Wachee Mermaids’ visit to 18 days this year, allowing them to engage with even more folks from the region.”

Included with admission to Newport Aquarium, guests will be able to see real-life mermaids clad in colorful fishtailed costumes gracefully glide through the aquarium’s 60,000-gallon Coral Reef tank, which that features nearly 200 aquatic animals and more than 50 species of fish, including a newly added zebra shark, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily*.

Mermaid collage

Newport Aquarium guests will also have the opportunity to personally meet a mermaid, as well as have their pictures taken in the aquarium’s Shark Ray Bay Theater from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. daily*.

An exclusive event added to the Weeki Wachee Mermaids’ visit to Newport Aquarium is the Mermaid & Pirate Family Ball, an after-hours family-friendly costume party on Sept. 25 that includes appetizers and refreshments, a treasure hunt, dancing and a special mermaid meet-and-greet. Newport Aquarium is giving away a four-pack of tickets to the Mermaid & Pirate Family Ball to one lucky fan who enters its Facebook sweepstakes, which runs Sept. 7-14.

Also new for 2015, Newport Aquarium is offering a combo ticket with BB Riverboats, allowing the public to enjoy a full day of mermaids and pirates for one low price. The Meet the Mermaids, Cruise with the Pirates ticket is for Oct. 9 and includes admission to Newport Aquarium and the Pirates of the Ohio Cruise on the Belle of Cincinnati fleet, as well as a picnic-style buffet lunch in the Aquarium’s award-winning Riverside Room.

MermaidPirateCombo_header

Additional mermaid encounters at Newport Aquarium during the Weeki Wachee Mermaids’ 18-day engagement include Breakfast with a Mermaid on Oct. 4 and Oct. 11.

Tickets are limited for Mermaid & Pirate Family Ball, the Meet the Mermaids, Cruise with the Pirates combo, and Breakfast with a Mermaid are available for purchase at NewportAquarium.com.

The return of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids comes on the heels of their popular 10-day visit to Newport Aquarium in October 2014, which was the 67-year-old institution’s first visit to the Midwest.

The mermaids are travelling from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a freshwater spring north of Tampa, Fla., home of underwater mermaid appearances and performances since 1947.

For more information on Newport Aquarium, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).

*Mermaid dive and meet-and-greet times are subject to change. Check website for schedule.

###

Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky jewel attraction is home to: The world’s first and only Shark Bridge; the world’s first Shark Ray Breeding Program; Mighty Mike – the biggest and baddest American alligator outside the state of Florida; the largest and most diverse collection of sharks in the Midwest; and one of the world’s largest and most diverse penguin exhibits. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Stay Hooked In: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | YouTube

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com