Lu Vickers presents "Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids"
In the crystalline waters of Wakulla Springs, performer Newt Perry, got his beginnings with underwater theatrics on his way to creating the subaquatic shows of performing mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. When Perry sank a theater into the edge of the spring in 1947, he had no idea his mermaids would become world-famous Florida icons.
Join author and historian, Lu Vickers as she traces the colorful history of this Florida roadside attraction since its early start – when local teens were hired to play the mermaid parts performing silent ballets – to the heyday when ABC built them a million dollar theater; and its subsequent establishment as a Florida State Park. Follow the park’s rise to prominence through stunning vintage photographs and Lu’s commentary to experience the daily life of a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs.
About the Book:
In the postwar explosion of domestic tourism, Weeki Wachee spring offered the quintessential vacation fantasy, a city of colorful mermaids in a natural crystal spring right off the West Coast highway in a sparsely inhabited Florida. In those early days, the mermaids had to stand alongside the highway to flag travelers down, but once word of their charms got out, travelers headed south to playgrounds in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa found Weeki Wachee a tantalizing detour from the grueling two-lane road connecting vacationland with the work-a-day world to the north. Vickers shows how that local novelty became a stellar international attraction. Drawing on extensive archival research as well as interviews with dozens of mermaids and other park employees, Vickers traces the history of the park. Brilliantly illustrated with 250 stunning photos, Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids shows what it was like to be a mermaid at Weeki Wachee in its heyday.
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About the Author:
Lu Vickers has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for fiction for excerpts for a novel in progress. She has also been the recipient of two Florida Book awards and three Florida Individual Artist Fellowships for fiction. In addition to writing Remembering Paradise Park (with C. Graham), she has written the novel Breathing Underwater and three other Florida history books: Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids, Cypress Gardens, America’s Tropical Wonderland, and Weeki Wachee, Thirty Years of Underwater Photography, with Bonnie Georgiadis.
Newt Perry fishing from an underwater air trap - Wakulla Springs, Florida, circa1941 - photo courtesy of Florida Memory
Funding for this program was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.