Weeki Wachee, FL- Spirits were high on Saturday, March 12, as the 27 participants awaited the 2nd annual Mermaid Chase. The event brought a flood of kayaks to Linda Pederson Park. This year, the paddling trail stretched for 3.5 miles. It was a new course and was even longer than the two mile trail from 2017. Because of the new length in miles, whoever placed 1st in the race would set a brand new record.
Running the time clock was Erin Daly, from Red Mule Runners and Assistant State Attorney. She was full of energy and buzzing from place to place and person to person. County Clerk and election candidate for Hernando County Circuit Judge, Don Barbee Jr., also gave a helping hand at the time clock and offered his assistance and support whenever needed. Extra kayaks were available, from Turtle Springs, for those who did not bring their own.
Most of the participants in the race, this year, were locals. However, Trudy Ensminger, a Hernando County resident, had friends visiting her all the way from Virginia and a small town in Pennsylvania to participate in the Mermaid Chase. Trudy, along with her husband Bill, and their two friends Pam Shredder and Wendy Bressler Baranak, could not contain their excitement for this year’s race. They had participated last year and enjoyed it so much that they wouldn’t even consider missing a year. Unfortunately, Trudy Ensminger was unable to kayak with her husband and friends due to problems with her ankle. She was disappointed but was a true supporter as she cheered on and encouraged her entourage as they paddled the trail.
While participants rushed through the course, onlookers and volunteers were able to take pictures and speak with the resident mermaid, visiting from Weeki Wachee Springs. Sammy, the mermaid, has been flipping her tail ever since last September and loves every minute of her experiences with the other Weeki Wachee mermaids. Cheerful, although confined to a chair, because of her pink tail, Sammy greeted every visitor that approached her and never declined a photo.
The time flew by and our first place Single Kayak winner, Larry Cox, won a course record finishing at 42:46. Paddling not too far behind Larry was second place single winner, Kurt Glacy, at 42:50. Third place winner for the Singles Male Division was Jared Ferreira, clocking in at 44:33.
The first place winners of the Tandem (double) were Corey and Ty Denninger placing a course record for Tandem at 43:20. Second and third place winners were Jen St. Aubier and Maria Warney (48:37) and Deborah Chavanne and Debra Henderson (1:06:43).
Wynn Hamilton came paddling in at 50:58, winning first place of the Female Single Kayak Division. Following close behind her were second and third place winners, Margaret Hankan (51:44) and Michelle Mataress (53:08).
Finally, winning the first paddle board course record, was Bill Daly, sailing in at 1:00:04.
Once, the last kayak was pulled out of the water, Brittany Hall-Scharf, our Hernando County Sea Grant Agent from the UF/IFAS Extension, was able to give a few words. Brittany explained how the proceeds from the Mermaid Chase are able to fund future projects geared towards coastal and marine education and restoration.
The day ended with an awards ceremony, as the first, second, and third winners from each division were announced. They were given stunning shell medals, handcrafted by the talented Terry Weglarz, and had their picture taken with Sammy, the Weeki Wachee Mermaid.
Thanks and recognition were given to each and every one of the volunteers, including Coastline Realty for providing much needed water bottles and the Hernando County Firefighters for volunteering to offer assistance if a safety issue should arise, as well as everything they do for our county on a daily basis.
Each and every one of the participants, whether they placed or not, had a wonderful time and gave their best effort. It was reported that racers saw several manatees and dolphins while on the course, making their time out on the water unforgettable.