Bay News 9
Weeki Wachee Springs marks 70 years of mermaid shows
Families visiting the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Saturday were in for a special treat. The state park celebrated its 70th year of mermaids shows.
- Original mermaid Dianne Wyatt McDonald returns for ceremony
- “Legendary Sirens” performed during Saturday’s event
- Wyatt McDonald is co-creator of “adagio pose”
One of the special guests was one of the original mermaids, 87-year-old Dianne Wyatt McDonald.
“Oh the show is the most beautiful thing in the world. Especially these older girls that do it,” Wyatt McDonald said. “I can’t believe it. If I lived closer here, I’d be with them.”
She was mesmerized by the performance of a group of mermaids in their 60s and 70s, called the “Legendary Sirens.”
They performed a 30-minute show during the celebration.
Back in Wyatt McDonald’s performing days in 1947, things were different.
“We didn’t have the air hoses, or the fins or the masks. We just held our breath and did our stints under water, with no air hose, nothing,” she said.
Fortunately, she had a background in synchronized swimming. She said the original mermaids were a synchronized swimming group in St. Petersburg called the Aquabelles, before they became mermaids.
Weeki Wachee Springs’ original owner, Newton Perry, heard about the group and invited them to audition. On the second attempt to impress him, Wyatt McDonald said they won him over.
According to Wyatt McDonald, they weren’t paid but given lunches and the swimsuits. However, they did appear in magazines, newspapers and sports movies.
Wyatt McDonald is well known in the mermaid world. She’s the co-creator of the “adagio pose,” which is featured in the statue in front of the park, and performed often by the mermaids.
“I’m ever so proud of that. I get goose bumps every time I see them perform it in the theater,” Wyatt McDonald said.
She was also featured in the first two postcards for the popular roadside attraction on US 19.
“There’s not much you can’t do underwater, I’ll tell you it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s something you never forget. It just brings back old memories.”
While she’s no longer able to perform, she’s just grateful the attraction has survived all of these years and is now known across the world.
“Oh that feels wonderful because we were so afraid that something was going to happen to Weeki Wachee, and I’m so thrilled that it’s made such a wonderful return. It’s just a marvelous place. Couldn’t be better,” Wyatt McDonald said.
Newton Perry’s daughter, Delee Perry, who was also honored, agreed.
“I’m just so thankful that the state of Florida was able to come in and help out preserving Weeki Wachee and the springs,” Perry said.
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