It was Saturday night July 2, 2022, and my wife and I were attending a small family birthday party, when my cell phone turned to be the object of everyone’s attention. (We all know how that can be.) So, I decided to take the call, and it turned out to be of some family importance.
The caller was Steve Krou, and he was given my number through a mutual friend, Mrs. Diane Liptak. I have known Mrs. Liptak as being involved in many issues dealing with matters from School Board meetings and county commissioners sessions, to waterway projects as well. Now she is involved in a special art project, teaming up with Mr. Krou to paint a mermaid!
Mr. Krou mentioned that he was an artist that was contacted, but not yet contracted to do artwork on some fiberglass “mermaids” for the county. I now have confirmation that their team made the cut. To me, this was an attention grabber on multiple fronts. Firstly, my family has entertained relatives from out of town by taking them to our county’s and state’s own historic attraction, Weeki Wachee Springs and the mermaid show.
The second interesting note on this subject is that my sister in law, Joyce Hope, was a member of this special “marine menagerie.” The attached picture comes from a 1966 “Florida PICTORIAL,” with her being the only mermaid of the six girls shown, posing in full costume.
Now, back to the present problem concerning the mermaid depictions. In poking around for more info, I found out that the 75th anniversary of the Weeki Wachee attraction will be on the 13th of October of this year. The statues will be constructed partly by funds from the Tourist Development Council, and sanctioned by Florida’s Adventure Coast.
I am thinking that these statues will be similar in nature to the ones done of horses (around the Ocala, Fla. area). Also, local artists will be contributing to the separate mermaid art designs. In speaking with Michelle Rose, and Tammy Heon, 25 unpainted statues are already formed. A good many people from our community are coming on board to sponsor these works, and Cemex will be sponsoring the work done by the Krou/Liptak team.
From another source, (Spectrum Bay news 9), a reporter named Katya Guillaume did 2 segments on this topic. One showed a cast being made for the face of the mermaid by doing a special type of fast drying plaster by a woman named Rosetta Atkins. Her model`s name was Kristy Lowman. It is her likeness that will be the face of the mermaid statues. Ms. Lowman was actually one of the mermaids that did her part for around 7 years!
Ms. Guillaume also did a blog showing an interview of one of the 1st mermaids to swim in the shows (around 1947). Her name is Dianne McDonald, and she was picked from a water synchronized swimming team at St. Pete High School. Ms. McDonald, along with many other young ladies, got their inspiration from Esther Williams, dubbed “The Million Dollar Mermaid” in Hollywood social circles. Ms. McDonald was recorded saying that back when she first started, Hwy 19 was a two lane dirt road.
She also mentioned that when the ladies got together to do a “water ballet,” they did it on the surface, but was asked to try to put together a show that would be underwater. The iconic “tails” were not added until later. Ms. McDonald also stated that she would like to be able to enter those waters and swim one last time. It also needs to be said that at the time of that interview, Dianne McDonald was 91 years old!
If you would like a sneak peek at the assembly and progress of the first mermaid statue, you can go online to You tube, then search for the title, “Destination Mermaids: The Making of a Mermaid (2022).”
This was put on line by Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville-Weeki Wachee. Having driven through many big cities and small towns in these United States of America, landmarks are what I remember a place by. San Antonio has the Alamo, and its river cruises. St. Louis Missouri has the arch (that was titled “The Gateway to the Midwest”). And Baltimore, Maryland has its “ Inner Harbor” scene, where the pubs have been serving “grog” since the 1700s.
Hernando County may be a lot smaller in size, but its mermaids are somewhat known throughout this country and the world, for that matter. My main hope for this positive artistic venture is that the statues are respected and not abused. The horse statues placed in various parts of the Ocala area remind tourists and people passing through that the horse is a lot of what people think about in their town.
These statues being placed in our community will help to stimulate conversation about the “finned females” out on Hwy 19, and that may actually equate to more seats being filled in the underwater viewing theater (not to mention the motel venues, and other economic pluses).
These mermaid statues will not only be a great example of the artistic talent in our community, it adds a bit of magic to the landmark that people will remember Hernando County by. Do you hear that beautiful sound in the distance? It is the siren song of our mermaids!