We guess we should warn you that today’s post is going to be all leprechauns, unicorns and mermaids. What’s that? You don’t believe in all that stuff? Well, I guess we can see your point about leprechauns and unicorns, but how can you not believe in mermaids? After all, we’ve seen them with our very own eyes – and so can you! And, in an effort to make you, too, a believer, we’re going to skip the leprechauns and unicorns and make today’s blog all about how you can see live mermaids. That’s right! We said LIVE mermaids! Watch them frolic and play with undersea creatures! We’re not talking about some half-monkey/half fish some museum in Delaware has been trying to peddle off as a real Fiji mermaid for decades now. We’re also not talking about those Sea-Monkey kits you bought as a kid because you thought you could grow your own mermaid-looking pets just like the ads showed in the back of those comic books you used to read. No this is NOT how mermaids are made. No siree! We’re talking about living mermaids that you can see up close and personal and maybe shake a fin or two. “How’s that?” you ask? Well, sit down right there while we tell you the story about a little place in Florida called Weeki Wachee Spring State Park where mermaids abound. “Welcome to Weeki Wachee Spring where we have a little ‘tail’ to tell.” The History of Weeki Wachee Spring “Weeki Wachee” is Seminole for “little spring” but when they named it way back when, they probably had little idea that the state park was actually one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S. A former U.S. Navy sailor who used to teach World War II Navy frogmen how to swim named Newton Perry had a big idea about it, though, and in 1946, he chose Weeki Wachee Spring to start his business right there along U.S. 19 in Florida. Newt Perry training some of his first mermaids. First, he cleaned the rusted-out cars and refrigerators out of the spring. Then he started experimenting with different hoses and compressors for breathing underwater without a tank, thus giving the impression that a human could thrive under twenty feet of water with no breathing apparatus. Next, Perry dug an 18-seat theater out of the surrounding limestone so people could get a real nice look at the ancient spring’s natural beauty. And speaking of beauty, he then went on a search for pretty girls and taught them how to use the hoses to breathe underwater while also smiling, drinking fruit drinks and and eating a banana underwater as well. “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to… wait, there’s always Coca-Cola!” Once the girls were ready, he put out a sign that simply read “WEEKIE WACHEE” and had his first show at the Weeki Wachee underwater theater on October 13, 1947 with the mermaids performing synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery. We’d like to say the show was a huge success and people came from all over America to see these beautiful mermaids; the fact of the matter is, however, like all good things, it took a little bit more work than that. You see, back in 1947, there were more alligators and bears that there were people living in that part of Florida. Traffic along U.S. Route 19 was scarce, and when a car did come along, the girls would run out in their bikinis, and sort of like the sirens of old, beckoned them to come see the Weeki Wachee mermaid show. Once they got a few people seated – SPLASH! – they were back in the water putting on their show. Everything’s Goes Swimmingly Word soon got around, however, and by the 1950s, Weeki Wachee had become one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops and people from all over the world wanted to visit. Even Hollywood got in on the act, filming movies like Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid here and The Incredible Mr. Limpet hosted their worldwide premiere at Weeki Wachee with a sea of celebrities including the star of the film, Don Knotts, as special guest. Other celebrity’s guest over the years included Elvis Presley, Esther Williams, and Arthur Godfrey. While filming “Follow That Dream” nearby, Elvis visited his “underwater” fan club at Weeki Wachee Spring on July 30, 1961. In the meantime, the Weeki Wachee had grown to include not only mermaid shows, but also, orchid gardens, jungle cruises, and Indian encampment and a new beach. Even the mermaids improved by taking etiquette and ballet lessons. Here, a mermaid get’s her hair professionally cut and it only costs her a couple of clams. Things really took off for Weeki Wachee in 1959, however, when they were purchased by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) which took the show to new depths, building a 400 seat theater and producing themes for the underwater shows like Underwater Circus, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, and Peter Pan – all with elaborate props, music, and special effects. Alice the Mermaid in an Underwater Wonderland complete with the rarely seen white rabbitfish. Weeki Wachee was at its peak in the 1960s when 35 mermaids used to take turns swimming in the shows eight times a day that were attended by over half a million people a year! Applications started flooding in from all over the world from girls as far away as Japan who wanted to be mermaids. Some of them even lived in the mermaid cottages out behind the attraction and wherever they went, they were treated like merprincesses. In the 1980s, Weeki Wachee opened up a new area filled with waterslides and a white sand beach called Buccaneer Bay. In the mid-90s they introduced Mermaids of yesteryear, a popular standing-room only show performed once a month by former mermaids of Weeki Wachee – after all, as their motto goes: “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid.” C’mon! Everybody knows that a mermaid grows legs once she’s been out of the water for a while. Weeki Wachee Springs is a Florida state park where you can still go back in time and catch the classic mermaid show. The park still features river cruises and you can still check out the areas abundant protected wildlife. You can even spend the day splishing and splashing at Buccaneer Bay. But in the end, we know, like millions that have visited Weeki Wachee for the past 73 years, you really come for the mermaids. Today you can still see the beautiful mermaids of Weeki Wachee Spring like Kristy the mermaid, shown here. (Hey, not all mermaids are gonna be named Ariel, you know.) No matter which direction you come to visit the Weeki Wachee mermaids from, there’s sure to be a Stuckey’s location along the way. Stop in and browse our fine pecan candies and souvenirs and don’t forget to pick up some of our famous Stuckey Pecan Log Rolls and other Stuckey’s merchandise for the folks back home. Can’t make it to Weeki Wachee or a Stuckey’s near you? Then let Stuckey’s bring some of their famous pecan logs and other favorite southern treats to you. And don’t forget that the holidays are right around the corner and Stuckey’s new 10”, 10 ½ oz. pecan roll is great for stuffing anybody’s stocking. Find out more at stuckeys.com! Hey, if you can believe in mermaids, then why not a car made of a Stuckey’s pecan log roll?