Weeki Wachee Springs - 2011
A Florida State Park
Background and History The grounds The Underwater Mermaid Theater
Wilderness Cruise The second show - The Little Mermaid
Bayport on the Gulf of Mexico
Background and History . . .
The state park includes the "mermaids" water ballet performances, a riverboat cruise, an animal show focused on birds and reptiles and the water slides and beach of Buccaneer Bay water park.
The Seminole Indians named the spring "Weeki Wachee", which means "little spring" or "winding river". It is one of Florida's oldest and most unique roadside attractions. This family oriented park has entertained visitors with beautiful mermaids who swim in the cool, clear spring waters for more than 60 years
After falling on hard times, the park was in a rundown condition. On November 1, 2008 Weeki Wachee Springs became Florida's 160th State Park. The state has put a lot of money into refurbishing the park to it's original beauty. The members of the Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park work to generate additional resources and support for the park.
Mermaid statues greet you at the entrance to the state park.
In 1982, Buccaneer Bay water park opened with water slides and a white sand beach across the lake from the Underwater Mermaid Theatre. When we were there it was not open for the season yet.
The grounds are very nicely landscaped.
The Spanish Moss was beautiful in the sunlight against the blue sky.
Across the walkway from the gift shop, children could pretend to ride this train.
The Underwater Mermaid Theater . . .
In the waiting area for the show, the clear water of the spring could be seen. The spring is the deepest in the United States at 403 feet. Each day more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 72 degree water bubbles out of the subterranean cavern. The base of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides. Where the mermaids swim, 16 - 20 feet below the surface, the current runs at five miles per hour.
The inside of the theatre was much like Fred remembered it. Of course, the flat screen monitors hanging on the wall were not there.
The bars on the screens mounted at several locations in the seating area bounced to the beat of the music played prior to the beginning of the show. It was apparent that it was not enough entertainment for some people. They played with their smart phones also.
The first show at the underwater theater opened October 13, 1947. Fred was there in about 1955. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves under water while breathing through air hoses hidden in the scenery. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) purchased the springs in 1959. They expanded the theatre to seat 500 people. They created the theme shows, and heavily promoted the attraction.
The slide show included some behind-the-scenes photographs . . .
The mayor of the City of Weeki Wachee is a former mermaid.
Access for the performers . . .
Early photographs were black and white.
You will see this acrobatic circle again later.
Let the show begin.
This performance gives you a look at how the mermaids have been entertaining visitor for over 60 years.
Several panes of heavy glass permitted the audience to have a good view wherever they sat. We arrived early to get a 'center' seat.
The narrator asked if we knew how the mermaids were able to 'drift' up and down in the water.
Air in = UP . . . Air out = DOWN
Turtles and fish were plentiful in the spring. In cold weather, manatee's can be seen swimming with the mermaids.
<<< This photograph shows the mermaid gently moving the turtle out of the way, so she can continue her activities.
The program was staged in front of an underwater castle. It was like a big aquarium but with live mermaids..
Newton Perry, a former Navy man who trained SEALS during WWII created this attraction. He experimented with a free-flowing air hose for underwater breathing. He taught the girls to smile and breathe with his new air hose - while under water. They also learned to drink beverages and eat food while underwater. That heritage is incorporated into the current show.
This mermaid drank a bottle of Coke underwater.
Acrobatic circles were in the current program also.
A photo op!
After the show a Peacock provided entertainment for the guests.
We wonder why people insist on feeding potato chips and other snack foods to wild life.
Fun for them, not good for the wild life. Okay, that's the reason.
The next stop on our itinerary was the Wilderness Cruise. It was a very pleasant ride, focused on the typical Florida ecosystem.
The water looked very shallow. We learned at other locations it is difficult to judge how deep the water is when it is so clear.
It was a beautiful river.
An eagle nest . . .
In Florida, when everyone is excitedly pointing their cameras at the same thing - it has to be an alligator.
Back to the dock - the end of the Wilderness Cruise . . .
Walking back for the second mermaid show, we passed this turkey looking for scraps the diners left behind at the Mermaid Galley Restaurant.
Across the water, at the Buccaneer Bay beach, a diving class was getting their equipment on.
The second show . . . The Little Mermaid
She just couldn't wait for the second show to begin.
This mermaid came close enough to the glass the color of her outfit was clearly seen.
We don't think the performers could see us. But, they acted like they could.
Between scenes, bubbles would fill the glass like a curtain coming down.
The second show was their version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid celebrates her birthday and comes face to face with her prince. Yearning to have legs like her Prince, the little mermaid makes a deal with the sea witch to give her what she wants in exchange for her beautiful voice. A fierce battle ensues as the Prince and the sea witch struggle to save the Little Mermaids beautiful voice proving that "Love does conquer all."
A small stage in the seating area was used for the final scene. The sea witch 'blasted' through a door near the ceiling and startled everyone.
After the show, we watch the divers across the water, come into the deep spring water for their class.
Admission was $13 for adults, $5 for ages 6 - 12. The military discount was significant - common in Florida. The ticket was good for the entire day. We had plenty of time to see two shows and take the Wilderness Cruise because the park was almost empty. We saw maybe fifty visitors.
For more information visit their website: www.weekiwachee.com
When we left the state park, we drove over to Bayport on the Gulf of Mexico, looking for a beach to sit on and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. It didn't quite work out that way.
The boat landing is the first thing you see entering Bayport.
We did find a small park. The sidewalk lead to an "U" shaped aluminum walkway that ran along the shoreline. It protected the terrain from pedestrian damage.
We enjoyed the views before we headed back to the truck - no beach here.
The day trip was ending. It was time to head back to the HitchHiker in Zephyrhills.
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