Florida’s Strange and Beautiful Mermaid Theme Park

Behold
The Photo Blog
Nov. 22 2013 11:02 AM

Florida’s Strange and Beautiful Mermaid Theme Park

MERMAID6-
The Theater

Annie Collinge

At the intersection of U.S. 19 and State Road 50 lies Weeki Wachee Springs, one of the oldest roadside attractions in Florida, where the Mermaid Theater has drawn visitors for decades. Photographer Annie Collinge spent three days at the springs last year after reading about it online. “I'm always interested in things that are fake but kind of a bit real. It fit in perfectly because they are professional mermaids but obviously they're fake,” she said.

An underwater theater first opened at the springs in 1947, the brainchild of Navy veteran Newton Perry. It had its heyday in 1959, when ABC purchased it and built a new theater 16 feet below the surface. Thirty-five mermaids were employed then, and they performed eight shows a day. Today, the springs are now designated part of a state park. “Instantly, I knew it was going to be a good project because the mermaids were very open. It helped that I was a woman. I was in the changing room and they didn't care,” she said.

The mermaids perform two shows—“The Little Mermaid” and “Fish Tails”—a few times a day, using hidden underwater breathing hoses to maintain the fantastical illusion. The park is open all year long to visitors. “It's quite a strange mix of people because it's not like your average Disney attraction. It has a vintage feel. There were people with their children and lots of slightly weird men who quite fancied mermaids,” Collinge said.

MERMAID5
Mermaid Karri

Annie Collinge

MERMAID8
Bubble

Annie Collinge

MERMAID1

Annie Collinge

MERMAID17-
Plunge

Annie Collinge

MERMAID12
Valentine's Day Barber Shop Choir

Annie Collinge

Advertisement

During the warmer months seats are often filled, but in February, Collinge said, only a few people were in the audience. This gave her more of an opportunity to photograph the mermaids, but it also meant the park looked pretty deserted. “Generally my work is sort of a contrast between something that's something slightly humorous and something that's slightly bleak. Unintentionally, that's how I see things,” Collinge said.

Collinge was surprised to discover how much the mermaids love their jobs. She said many of them grew up in the area and worked in the park for years in various capacities.  A few years ago, when the park was threatened with closure, the mermaids started a campaign called “Save Our Tails” to keep it open.

Collinge’s exhibition, “Annie Collinge: The Underwater Mermaid Theater,” is on view alongside another exhibition, “The Mythology of Florida,” through Jan. 5 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. You can follow Collinge on Facebook and Instagram.

MERMAID11-
Kylee and the Turtle

Annie Collinge

MERMAID4-
Mermaid Maggie Before the Show

Annie Collinge

MERMAID16-

Annie Collinge

MERMAID2
Dusk, Highway 19

Annie Collinge

MERMAID13
Mermaid Maggie

Annie Collinge

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 20 2014 1:50 PM Why We Shouldn’t Be Too Sure About the Supposed Deal to Return the Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 20 2014 3:12 PM Terror Next Door Prudie advises a letter writer whose husband is dangerously, violently obsessed with the neighbors.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.