WEEKI WACHEE, FL (WFLA) -
Despite the 35 degree temperature outside, the "mermaids" of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park still perform in their underwater theater.
"Mermaid Danielle" says it is quite comfortable being in the spring's 74 degree water as opposed to being outside in the cold air.
The "mermaids" drop down into a tube that empties them out into the underwater theater.
Danielle says the only hard part to the performance is if they have to come to the surface and are exposed to the cold air.
"I think it's all in your head. You see that it's cold out. You feel that it's cold out and you feel like it's a lot colder in the water but it's really not," Danielle said.
The unique fresh water spring was named Weeki Wachee by the Seminole Indians and means "little spring" or "winding river." The spring pumps more than 117 million gallons of crystal clear water each day and stays a constant 72 degrees year round.
"We really just try to stay underwater a lot more and not go above the water. It makes is colder when you get up at the surface but it feels like a jacuzzi kind of in the water," Danielle said.
Despite the cold weather, "Mermaid Melissa" says it's easier to get in the water today than it is in the middle of summer.
"In the summer, I think it's worse personally because it's like a more shock to your body because it's so hot outside and when you jump in the water it's like 'whoa'," Melissa said.
Melissa says performing takes her mind off what it feels like above the surface.
"Once you're down there you're not even thinking about it, you're just being a mermaid and enjoying every moment of it," Melissa said.
And Danielle says performing for the audience is why they are here.
"Well the show has to go on. We love performing so kind of just stick it through," Danielle said.
The spring feeds the iconic Weeki Wachee River that spans 12 miles through some of Hernando County's most scenic and serene wildlife habitats. It is the source of water-based recreation, including canoeing and kayaking and, at certain peak times of the year, manatee spotting.
The only place to spot a live mermaid, though, is inside the attraction where an underwater wonderland has been fascinating visitors since its very first show on October 13, 1947. Then, the theater could hold only 18.
Once a main roadside attraction, Weeki Wachee Springs has a history that began with an idea from a former U.S. Navy soldier. Newton Perry, who once trained Navy SEALS to swim under water during World War II, transformed the springs into an underwater theater experience.
While the original theater has been updated throughout its 60-year history, it now accommodates 400 and continues to serve as one of Florida's main attractions.