Weeki Wachee...from boom to bust.
Florida Guide > Florida History
Weeki Wachee Springs was named by the Native Americans known as the Seminoles. It means winding river.
No wonder the Seminoles chose to settle here with its endless oportunities to fish and hunt. They lived happily here until the coming of the plundering Europeans.
By the time we move on the the 1940s it is said that more bears than man lived here but this tranquillity was about to be shattered.
Just after the second World War a retired naval officer called Newton Perry was looking for a business opportunity. During the war he had trained seals to swim underwater and had designed an apparatus for underwater breathing.
Thus he stumbled across Weeki Wachee with its seemingly bottomless spring and decided this was his place. This was despite the fact that the city boasted only one road and dirt tracks with little passing trade.
He cleared the spring of its decades of rubbish and had installed a 20 seat underwater theatre. Having trained his mermaids to perform underwater in the free flowing air he opened to the public.
It is reported that in the early days the mermaids had to literally flag down the odd passing car to gain an audience but by the fifties word of mouth meant that Weeki Wachee had become one of Florida' s leading attractions and the mermaids were stars.
Along with the showpiece theatre, Newton had gardens designed and he also included a river cruise.
Little wonder that in the days before Orlandos behemoth theme parks this was a popular day out, and just 13 years after it had opened it was bought by A. B. C. They pumped a great deal of money into this park and enlarged the theatre to seat 200 and made the shows more dramatic.
Then came the 70s and along came Disney swiftly followed by Universal. Weeki Wachee lost its appeal and in the end A. B. C. sold the park to the City of Weeki Wachee for a nominal amount. The City, by the way, consists of around 10 souls and the mayor is an ex mermaid.
Try as they might they could not make a go of this tired old girl and in 2008, salvation came in the form of The State Parks department. They immediately pledged to keep the underwater theatre going and nowadays you can enjoy the water park, beach and a boat cruise during the day.
If you visit on the 1st sunday of the month entrance is free but at other times a modest $13 is required.
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Page added on: 24 April 2011
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