everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Do you wanna see a mermaid?

I am not entirely sure how I found out about the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida. But it is now on my bucket list. Would that be because it is, “one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S.”? Maybe for some people. Or because of its super catchy name, which means, “little spring” or “winding river”? Not really, to be honest. It’s actually because it is, “THE ONLY CITY OF LIVE MERMAIDS!” (or so they say on their website).

Yesteryear Mermaids

Apparently it all started back in 1946, with a former Navy guy called Newton Perry, who trained SEALs (the Navy ones, not the ones who do tricks and catch fish) to swim underwater in World War II. No notes on whether he was a mermaid/merman, but apparently he, “scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business”. And then he invented a method for humans to breathe underwater via oxygen hoses connected to an air compressor (so it could look like humans were, “thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus”. Genius.

Then he built an 18 seat theatre into limestone, six feet below the water’s surface. And then? Well, I can’t paraphrase, as I won’t do it justice: “Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets.” AMAZING.

And so the mermaid show drew large crowds and was quite the place to visit in the 1950s (even Elvis stopped by). And then in the 1980s they opened a water theme park and beach. Then in the 1990s they started the popular “Mermaids of Yesteryear” shows. Apparently, the former mermaids’ motto is, “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid”.

Not convinced? Then have a look at some of these amazing mermaids from the “Mermaid Roster” on the site (which is almost too good to be true)…

MermaidStayce

Don’t be surprised if Mermaid Stayce beats you in Candy Crush.”

MermaidCrystal

“Mermaid Crystal enjoys track & field and is always up for a game of Trivia Crack.” 

MermaidBrittany

“You can find Mermaid Brittany hunting when she’s not performing.”

I salute you, Newton Perry, for your fabulous vision. And you too, multi-talented mermaids. I very much hope to see the mermaid show for myself one day (they are open 365 days a year, fyi). [I did check out the ‘Careers’ section of the website – no current requirements for additional mermaids.] “Being a mermaid is a magical job. As the mermaids sing in The Little Mermaid show: 

We’re not like other women,
We don’t have to clean an oven
And we never will grow old,
We’ve got the world by the tail!”

Sing it, sisters. [You can check out the website here.]

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Welcome to Gnomesville

It’s really tough to explain Gnomesville in Western Australia. Surely one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever been and I’m so grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for adding it to the itinerary when I visited Perth last year. Down a small side road, surrounded by bushland and farms, Gnomesville is another world. Its impossible to capture the scale of it with my limited photographic skills, but trust me when I say it covers a very large area. Just when you think you’ve passed the last gnome grotto, you’ll notice a little weather-beaten sign and yet another collection of slightly worse-for-wear little statues. There are bridges and hills creating sort of gnome-y neighbourhoods, often with their own theme and signage. And often pretty creepy.

There are more bad gnome puns than you can poke a stick at – mostly hand-painted on (sometimes quite elaborate) signs. And that’s probably what surprised me the most: the pre-meditation of Gnomesville tourism. I felt very slack turning up without a bunch of gnomes (tattooed with the names of my family) – like a vegetarian at a butcher’s BBQ or an unmanicured Kardashian, I was feeling unprepared and out of place. Clearly, people carefully plan their visits to Gnomesville – gathering their gnomes, preparing their puns, slapping up their signs and then ensuring that they find just the right part of the village to house their little friends.

And, just like anywhere else in Australia, there is a real mix of characters: from South African and Kiwi gnomes, to dodgy looking gnomes in trailers and on bikes, to a big group of scantily clad girlie gnomes, to gnomes commemorating anniversaries and births and all sorts of families. And a DJ gnome, a Doctor gnome (presumably to staff the gnome hospital, where they seem to throw all the broken pieces of gnome) and some interlopers like frogs and bears that are wannabe gnomes trying to fit into the neighbourhood.There is even a tin of Spam on display in a wooden frame attached to a tree trunk. It’s that kind of place.

  

So if you’re travelling around WA, it’s definitely worth stopping at Gnomesville for a unique experience of life in an alternate universe – where you are giant-sized, gnomes drive cars and run hospitals, puns abound and you start debating the relative attractiveness of little plaster statues with glasses or pointy hats. But be warned – it can get a bit overwhelming and creepy and mess with your head – so whatever you do, don’t camp there overnight. Lest you venture past the point of gnome return (dammit, see what I mean?) and become part of the madness…

   

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