With Big Ben as their backdrop, the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids are making history this week. For the first time, the 63-year-old attraction's famous finned females are performing outside the continental United States.
Mermaids Marcy Terry, Stayce McConnell and Shannon Tooker arrived in London on Thursday for a six-day trip that will culminate with shows today and Sunday at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. The mermaids will perform their trademark routines in the aquarium's ocean reef display among green turtles, cownose rays and tropical fish.
The mermaids made their first dive within 10 hours or so after arriving at their hotel. A brief YouTube video posted Friday shows the performers — one of them sporting a Union Jack tail — flipping among the sea life.
"The fish in here are used to people," Toby Forer, general manager of SEA LIFE London Aquarium, says in the video. "We do dives throughout the week for maintenance and target feeding … and I think with a few real, live mermaids in here, they'll be delighted."
"The mermaids are a hit!" Weeki Wachee Springs assistant park manager Robyn Anderson wrote on the Weeki Wachee Springs Facebook page Friday afternoon. "Everyone is so impressed!"
London was the natural choice for the first overseas trip to draw publicity to Weeki Wachee Springs, said John Athanason, marketing coordinator for the attraction. British tourists make up the second-largest group of visitors behind Americans, Athanason said. Weeki Wachee is now a state park, so the mermaids are acting as ambassadors for the entire parks system, he said.
The publicity trip has been six months in the making and appears to have worked. By Friday, news photos of the mermaids in London had already gone international.
Athanason stayed behind, but the photos make him proud.
"To see the mermaids sitting on the sides of the Thames River in front of Big Ben, it was like, wow, it became a reality."