<p>&lt;b&gt;Swimmer's paradise&lt;/b&gt; Not only are mermaids real to the visitors of Weeki Wachee, they eat watermelon, swing on swing sets and smoke pipes all under water. This kitschy Florida fantasyland, in which merpeople carry on their natural lives in a natural spring, is captured in the colorful &lt;b&gt;Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids&lt;/b&gt;, a well-researched scrapbook written by Lu Vickers with photos compiled by Sara Dionne.<br /> <br /> Newt Perry opened Weeki Wachee Spring in the fall of 1947, and over time counted Elvis Presley, Arthur Godfrey and Bob Hope as guests. Under Perry's direction, Weeki Wachee served as a highway detour, Florida landmark and movie location. Seeing a billboard for the park gave Vickers the idea to write about it and its mermaids, who also inspired Betsy Carter's new novel Swim to Me (featured at left).<br /> <br /> Staged shows such as Alice in Waterland and The Wizard of Oz are viewed from Weeki Wachee's indoor theater that seats as many as 500 guests. The merpeople community performs 18 to 25 feet under water without weights for the audience, occasionally breathing through air hoses and encountering catfish and eels. Photos from each decade of the spring's operation show mermaids enjoying soft drinks, munching on apples and even playing the ukulele while under water. Despite being threatened with closure since the arrival of Disney World more than 30 years ago, the park remains alive and swimming today.<br /> <br /> Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids is a labor of love: a love of water, a love of fantasy and especially a love of a natural spring in Hernando Valley and all of the mystical and remarkable creatures that inhabit it.</p>

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