Perry looked at the clear, deep spring and saw opportunity -- the site, he reasoned, was perfect for an underwater show. He had been a Navy Frogman, and quickly discovered that a person could use a pressurized air hose to breath underwater. He built the underwater theater that would allow the visitors to look through a glass window and see the shows performed 16 feet under the surface. And then he hired mermaids.
The air hoses allowed them to stay underwater for long periods of time as they performed choreographed dances, drank soft drinks, and even ate bananas. They also helped with the advertising -- when not in the water, they would run to the street -- in their bathing suits -- and "lure" cars to Weeki Wachee.
I had heard, off and on, about the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee, so I decided to go see them. While I was waiting for the show to start, I took a very nice half-hour boat trip on the river that flows from the spring. The river was so clear that it was very difficult to tell how deep it was. We saw great blue herons (see image of heron with nest), lesser herons, pelicans, turtles, ducks, and lots of fish.
When I sat down to see the Mermaid show, I started chatting with the woman next to me who was there to see her daughter swim in the show. It turned out that she, too, had been a Mermaid. Since the spring where the Mermaids perform is open to the river, fish or animals can swim in. She told me that once when she was in the water an alligator joined them! He didn't threaten anyone, but they sensibly cut their number short and got out.
The first picture here is one of today's Mermaids drinking the traditional soft drink underwater. The second one is one of the Mermaids during the show -- but look to the upper left of this picture (click for a larger version) and you will see two manatees that swam into the spring and joined the show. It was ironic -- the mermaid legends are thought to have begun when sailors spotted manatees and mistook them for the half-woman half-fish of legend. They must have been at sea a long time!