Weeki Wachee’s heyday began in 1959, when the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) and was heavily promoted. ABC built the current theater, which seats 400 and is embedded in the side of the spring 16 feet below the surface. ABC also developed themes for the underwater shows, with elaborate props, lifts, music, and storylines such as Underwater Circus, The Mermaids and the Pirates, and Underwater Follies. The mermaids performed Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, and Peter Pan.
In the 1960s, girls came from as far away as Tokyo to try out for the privilege of becoming a mermaid. The glamorous mermaids performed eight shows a day to sold-out crowds and as many as half a million people a year came to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids. Weeki Wachee Springs employed 35 mermaids who took turns swimming in the shows and captivating the crowds by playing football and having picnics underwater. Some of the mermaids lived in the mermaid cottages out behind the attraction. The mermaids wore one-piece suits and were treated like royalty wherever they went in Florida.
The City of Weeki Wachee incorporated in 1966, putting the tiny city of Weeki Wachee on maps and state road signs. In 1982, Buccaneer Bay opened with waterslides and a white sand beach. In 1997, the popular Former Mermaid shows began, bringing former mermaids back to Weeki Wachee Springs to swim in the Mermaids of Yesteryear shows, which play to standing room-only crowds.
The former mermaids may have moved on in life, but the enchantment of the Weeki Wachee Spring calls them back time and again, like a dream that can’t be forgotten.