FOX 24 Charleston
The World-Famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids
CHARLESTON, SC (LEYLA GULEN, WTAT-TV) — The South Carolina Aquarium is home to nature’s many marvels and mysteries of the deep sea. For a limited time you can see one in particular that has been the subject of ocean legends and eluded man for eons… until now.
As crowds surround the Great Ocean Tank with noses pressed against the glass, eyes fill with wonder as a menagerie of fish hypnotically glide around a tower of coral. But on the other side of this 385,000 gallon tank – wearing scales of shocking pink and blowing kisses to her fans – is mermaid Cheyenne.
She’s one of several mermaids who will be on display through April 15th at the South Carolina Aquarium. On land she’s Cheyenne Bragg, a former lifeguard turned professional water nymph.
“As a kid I remember seeing the mermaids and thinking I want to be one of those. So I tried out twice and I got it the second time,” she said.
A coveted spot that requires applicants to pass a rigorous audition process if they’re to become one of the world-famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids.
“You have to do a 400-yard swim and that is really the hardest part,” she said. “It’s even hard for us to do it and we’re experienced swimmers! You also have to do two ballet moves we show you and a breath hold of 30 seconds.”
Training can take six months to a year until they’re ready for their first show. Breathing, being one of the toughest challenges.
But that’s not all. “Basically be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said Bragg. “Being comfortable in cold water with animals the you are not used to or opening your eyes under water when you don’t really want to.”
And they usually swim in fresh water, but here at the aquarium, they take twenty minute dips in salt water. They are so good at what they do, spectators have no idea that those wide and welcoming eyes are stinging like crazy.
“I liked how they did tricks,” said a young mermaid spectator. “Do you think you could be a mermaid,” I asked. “That would be pretty hard,” said another.
“For me it’s not so much the glitz and the glamour of it as much as it is the happiness that it brings people,” said Kourtney Ellinghuysen. “Because seeing the smile on someone’s face, especially a child, I think that this is real life, this is somebody’s superstar and to me that’s the biggest, biggest happiness.”
“It’s such a good feeling,” said Bragg.
If you’re interested in a fin-tastic time, Florida’s Weeki Wachee Mermaids will delight audiences through Saturday, April 15th. You can enjoy a choreographed routine to musical numbers all day and it’s included in the price of admissi