The Mermaid Tale Trail, a Treasure Map to Old Florida
To commemorate 75 years of Weeki Wachee mermaids, the Florida’s Adventure Coast tourist office, with the help of Brooksville Main Street and the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, commissioned 27 mermaid statues to be placed throughout Hernando County. A 28th will be placed at the Florida/Georgia Welcome Center on 1-75.
Each statue is a beautiful, seven-foot mermaid hand-painted by a local artist. The face of each mermaid is that of actual Weeki Wachee mermaid Kristy Lowman. All the statues have been sponsored, and most have already been unveiled at their new homes across the county at beaches, parks, public areas, and businesses.
“There are so many wonderful places to visit. The trail will hopefully send people in those directions, and apparently that’s what it’s doing, and we’re going to continue it,” Athanason says.
You can find out where each mermaid is located and get a peek at her tail at floridamermaidtrail.com/tale-trail- mermaids/, but you’ll have to go see her in person for the full impact. “These statues are 360 degrees,” Athanason reminds us. The website also provides background into the artist who painted her.
“The Spring” mermaid was painted by a real live mermaid located at the Weeki Wachee spring itself, “The Spring” mermaid was sponsored by the Friends of Weeki Wachee and painted by artist and Weeki Wachee mermaid herself, Lydia Byrd. Her art includes scenes of Newton Perry, past mermaids, and a popular seahorse prop named “Bubbles.” Elvis Presley gets a shout-out, too. Each scene on the rock is based on real photographs taken at the spring over the past 75 years. “I hope mermaids of the past can look at this statue and reminisce on the best years of their lives. I hope guests coming to see the park for the first time will be in awe of the history this place holds. Overall I hope it will captivate viewers to keep looking at all of the hidden details, and bring a smile to everyone who knows and loved the spring,” Byrd says.
“Marina” focuses on protecting the ocean’s treasures and secrets.
Located at the Hernando Beach Motel, “Marina” the mermaid was painted by Renata Villemarie, an artist originally from Russia who now lives in Spring Hill. She is a mobile muralist for the Hernando County Arts Council, a featured artist in the Uptown Gallery, and an art teacher. She focused on the “darker,” more mythical side of mermaids—how they lure sailors to the sea and protect treasures. She named the mermaid after her mother. “I put a goddess on the back of my mermaid,” Villemarie says. “I’m not going to tell you which one it is—you can come and look at it!”
“Nico and the Velvet Underwater” is not only a piece of art, she’s a musician.
Sponsored by NatureCoaster.com and painted by Brooksville artist Jesse Kasabian, “Nico “Nico and the Velvet Underwater” the mermaid has a unique, dynamic, musical theme. Inspired by his favorite band, the Velvet Underground, Kasabian created “Nico and the Velvet Underwater,” a mermaid who jams out with her friends—a dolphin, seahorse, and turtle. “I actually feel like art is getting closer to God,” Kasabian says. Kasabian played “Under the Sea” on his electric guitar during the unveiling ceremony at Anderson Snow Park in Spring Hill.
Athanason says the 75th anniversary project has been so successful that they plan to add more mermaids every year. “Eventually we want to end up with 100 throughout the county,” he says.
For more information about the Mermaid Tale Trail, visit www.floridamermaidtrail.com/tale-trail.
For more information on Weeki Wachee State Park, visit www.floridastateparks.org/WeekiWachee.