Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Tales of the Tails

Yesterday, the New York Times was featuring this article on struggling traditional (i.e. pre-Disney) Florida attraction Weeki Wachee Springs (warning, slow-to-load Flash intro, but kinda fun in a cheezy way once it loads), the place with the "live mermaids." Trying to come up with some additional background on the place, a web search yielded these slightly different pieces (27 July 2003, 28 July 2003) from last month in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I've been to Weeki Wachee, but it was a long time ago. Sounds like few improvements have happened since.

As usual, I'm kinda ambivalent about establishments like Weeki Wachee -- or Cypress Gardens -- going out of business. (The Journal-Constitution has this list of Florida attractions that have closed in the past twenty years.) By one set of considerations, they're just businesses, and businesses come and go as they're appropriate to the times and to the degree they can suck up your tax dollars (i.e., corporate welfare) to stay in business. But, the personal and human and nostalgia aspects pull me in a different direction. As the stories above make clear, the Weeki Wachee mermaids are real people, putting on a different and quirky -- and, yes, kitshcy -- entertainment. It sucks to see people lose their jobs.

And there is some value in preserving something from times now past. I'm not saying corporate welfare for all such enterprises, but I'm hopeful that something can be done such that some of those attractions can find a way to keep going as relevant operations, maybe with a little help from the community and its governments.