Florida's Weeki Wachee attraction seeks new mermaids

One of the most magical places on Earth* is hiring. Weeki Wachee in Spring Hill, Florida is auditioning for new full-time mermaids.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is an attraction in Hernando County located near the intersection of State Road 50 and U.S. Highway 19. The attraction that opened in 1947 features performers dressed as mermaids and an underwater theater.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will hold auditions Jan. 13 for what it hopes will be several new additions to its world-famous mermaid squad. Currently, the squad has 17 performing mermaids and three princes.

The Weeki Wachee mermaids perform underwater year-round in 72-degree spring water from the head of the Weeki Wachee river. The mermaid show debuted on Oct. 13, 1947, in the theater built of limestone and submerged six feet below the spring's surface.

The park expects at least 50 women to come for the first, and most physically demanding, part of the audition…

On the first audition day, aspiring mermaids must complete a timed, 300-yard endurance swim, where they swim both with and against the water's current. If they finish that successfully, candidates must tread water for 10 to 15 minutes…

Candidates will perform underwater ballet moves, like flips, a few feet below water in the park's submerged mermaid tank that faces a 400-seat auditorium. The underwater audition shows how "comfortable" or "panicky" a candidate looks behind the glass…

Then, after the new mermaids are chosen, they must go under a year's worth of training. From getting SCUBA certified to mastering the underwater routines, the up-and-coming water nymphs are faced with some real physical challenges.

A feature in The Penny Hoarder describes these challenges:

…the Ferris wheel is the most difficult move. For this move, the women drop their hoses, grab each other's tails and create something like a Ferris wheel as they swim in a loop.

"It's only about 20 or 25 seconds," Madden [a mermaid] explains. "But you know you're going to be the one who messes it all up."

And because this is a natural spring, there's a current, which can move up to 5 mph. The mermaids have to exert additional energy to stay in place.

Also consider the water temperature: a brisk 74 degrees year round. Some mermaids emerge from the water shaking uncontrollably after a show. They're whisked away into the "hot room" so their body temperatures can stabilize.

But even through the difficult physical work, each mermaid said they love their job, especially the sisterhood bonds they've formed.

The bad news? Weeki Wachee's mermaids are paid a paltry $10/hour and must commit to working four days a week. Yikes.

*In my opinion

Always wanted to be a mermaid? Weeki Wachee auditions set for Jan. 13 and Under the Sea: These Women Actually Make a Living as Mermaids in Florida

photo by Daniel Oines