Advertisement
  1. News

Video: FishHawk mermaid explains her fin passion after pool ban

Jenna Conti, who performs as the mermaid Eden Sirene, has been prohibited from wearing her custom-made costume in a pool at FishHawk Ranch because of the pool's no fins policy.
Published Jul. 19, 2013

LITHIA — When Jenna Conti went to another public meeting at FishHawk Ranch on Tuesday night, she again brought her fin.

Conti has a custom-made silicon mermaid tail. Her dream is to swim at the Florida Aquarium, but last week she just planned to swim with the kids at FishHawk Ranch.

She had been in the Aquatic Club pool with her tail once before with the staff's okay, she said, but last week, they told her it violated a policy against swim fins. Weightless in the water and not made of hard plastic, it's not a safety concern, she said.

On Monday night, the FishHawk Community Development District I board voted to keep her out of the pool because of the swim fin policy. She asked the Community Development District II board Tuesday to re-evaluate the rules.

The board suggested options like holding special events with her. Or she could apply to be a vendor, the board said, with a business license and insurance.

Conti said the events calendar was booked until 2014, but board members encouraged her to talk to the Homeowners Association.

"Some of the HOA's most successful events have been those with children," said board chairman Ruth Brown, noting past events for Christmas and Easter. "This would really be a special treat for the community."

A few residents spoke in support of Conti. Bill Sperling, an insurance agent with four children who has lived there for eight years, said he hoped Conti and the board could find middle ground.

"I feel that FishHawk Ranch is a unique community. That's why I live here," Sperling said after the meeting. "The mermaid is also unique. I feel there is a place for her here."

Last week, Conti posted on the FishHawk Area Neighborhood Page on Facebook, inviting families to bring their children to swim with her. The first 100 comments were supportive, she said. But when she got to the pool Wednesday morning, staff said she would not be allowed in with her fin.

At the same time, a text from a friend told her to stay off Facebook, where the idea of a mermaid in the community pool had suddenly become contentious.

Some on Facebook have questioned whether her fin is a safety issue. Others wonder who else they would have to bend the rules for if they bend them for a mermaid.

And some have questioned her motives, and why a woman dressed like a mermaid would want to swim with kids in the first place. Another poster suggested the males who support Conti are "dirty old men."

"I looked at one comment," Conti said. "I didn't look at the rest. I was devastated."

The full-time hair stylist has lived in FishHawk Ridge for two and a half years, but hasn't been a mermaid for very long. She and her 10-year-old son saw the mermaids at the Tampa Bay Renaissance Fair earlier this year.

"I was so absolutely enthralled by what I saw," she said.

About seven years ago, Conti had a brain tumor. She'd lost the use of her legs and had to relearn how to walk. So when she saw the mermaids, she told herself, "It's time to start doing the things you want to do."

After Tuesday's meeting, Conti said she would think about her options, like becoming a vendor or finding another place to swim. She'll charge a fee for private parties, she said, but she doesn't want to charge families to swim with her in public pools.

"To just swim with the kids, it's supposed to be for everybody," she said.

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at ksheehan@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2453.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A rainbow shines over Coffee Pot Bayou after an afternoon rain shower on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in Coffee Pot Bayou. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    One reader wanted to know. We tried to find out.
  2. A retired Orlando Police Department officer is the subject of an internal affairs investigation after he arrested two elementary school students late last week without his watch commander’s approval. Facebook
    Per department policy, officers are required to receive approval from a manager before arresting anyone under the age of 12.
  3. Rabbi Reb Tuviah (Paul Schreiber) is rarely seen without his guitar. He will sing at the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Temple Beth David in Spring Hill. Paul Schreiber
  4. Waves crash in front of an American flag that is planted on a jetty during a high surf from the Atlantic Ocean, in advance of the potential arrival of Hurricane Dorian, in Vero Beach on Sept. 2. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Their efforts underscore the risks of a warming planet for the state’s future.
  5. The National Weather Service has issued a tropical storm advisory for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tropical Storm Karen currently has maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. National Weather Service
    A tropical storm warning is currently in effect for the eastern Caribbean
  6. A Thomas Cook plane on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport in Sussex, England Monday. British tour company Thomas Cook collapsed early Monday after failing to secure emergency funding, leaving tens of thousands of vacationers stranded abroad. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP) STEVE PARSONS  |  AP
    The collapse of the firm will have sweeping effects across the entire European and North African tourism industry and elsewhere.
  7. Natalie D'Alessandro and Izaac Deal break out into dance during the inaugural Pride Festival in 2018 in downtown New Port Richey. BY MICHELE MILLER  |  Michele Miller, Times Staff
    New Port Richey gathering will feature a week of lead-up events.
  8. When police officers arrived at the home, they found the man dead from an apparent gunshot wound on the back patio of the house. Port St. Lucie Police Department/Facebook
    The man called dispatchers late Saturday to say he had fatally shot his wife and her boyfriend, and that there were two children inside the home.
  9. Dear Penny: Will bad credit kill my chances of landing my dream job? FRANCESCORIDOLFI.COM  |  Getty Images/iStockphoto
    Be up front about your circumstances.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement