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Mermaids: Entertainers with a tail

By Katherine Dorsett Bennett, CNN
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
Marina Duran-Anderson has been performing underwater for more than 25 years. Marina Duran-Anderson has been performing underwater for more than 25 years.
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Wreck Bar, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wreck Bar
Denver's Downtown Aquarium
Silverton Casino, Las Vegas
Sip 'n Dip Lounge, Great Falls, Montana
Dive Bar, Sacramento, California
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mermaids have long captured the imagination of humans
  • These five venues feature live mermaid performances
  • Las Vegas venue features an Olympic Gold medalist

(CNN) -- Mythical mermaids have fascinated humans for centuries, and alluring creatures in bikini tops and fish tails seem to be keeping the love alive.

One of the first mermaid shows in the United States can be traced back to Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida, where mermaids debuted synchronized ballet moves at an 18-seat theater in October 1947.

Mermaid shows have evolved from that Florida roadside attraction off U.S. 19. Here are five spots where mermaids are making a big splash:

The Sip 'n Dip Lounge: Great Falls, Montana

The mermaid attraction at the Sip 'n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana, started when a housekeeper at the adjoining O'Haire Motor Inn agreed to put on a costume and swim around for guests on New Year's Eve 1995. A glass wall between the bar and the 21,000 gallon swimming pool provided a perfect place for tiki lounge patrons to take in a show.

A live piano bar had been the primary entertainment until Sip 'n Dip general manager Sandra Johnson-Thares and her mother came up with the idea to add mermaids. They thought it would boost the lounge's "fun factor."

"I never in my life believed the mermaid attraction would be such a big hit," said Johnson-Thares. Both locals and tourists are drawn by the kitschy entertainment. Celebrities like "Splash" mermaid Daryl Hannah have stopped in for a visit, too.

"People are fascinated with them, and it's not something you'd expect to see in Montana," she chuckled.

Johnson-Thares makes the mermaid costumes using stretch velvet fabric and "a lot of sequins." Six women work part-time as mermaids five days a week.

"Some of our mermaids are students and others are moms," she said. "We use the newspaper and radio to advertise for mermaid positions when they open up."

Photos: Mermaid parade is 'a hidden exotic gem'

Downtown Aquarium: Denver, Colorado

By day, Denver native Allison Wos is an executive assistant at a health care company. But after hours, the 26-year-old transforms herself into a mermaid.

"It's really enjoyable work, and I feel privileged to do it," she said. "Our audiences get a kick out of it, too, and seem mesmerized by our shows."

Wos said she is one of eight women who dress up and perform as mermaids at Denver's Downtown Aquarium, an aquarium, entertainment and dining facility.

One of her favorite aspects of the job is swimming alongside the various sea life in the salt water tanks. "I consider eels, sea turtles, Queensland groupers, yellowtail snappers and a whole host of fish my co-workers," she laughed.

The sea turtles are her favorite because they seem to like the spotlight and interact nicely with the mermaid team.

The "Mystic Mermaids," as they're called, perform daily in a family-friendly show at the aquarium's "Under the Sea" exhibit and in a tank adjoined to the restaurant.

Dive Bar: Sacramento, California

Guests of the upscale Dive Bar are treated to performances by mermaids and mermen mingling with fish inside a 7,500-gallon tank.

"The crowd goes wild when the guys hop in the tank and are treated almost like rock stars," said Rachel Smith, a mermaid at Dive Bar. "The guys who work as mermen are very macho and portray a warrior and tough guy look inside the tank."

Smith, who has been a professional mermaid for a year and a half, said she landed the job after sending her employers a videotape resume of sorts of her swimming in a mermaid outfit.

"I love to swim and made my own mermaid tails as a side hobby. When I found out about this job, I just knew it had to be mine," she said.

Smith helps design the costumes her fellow mermaids and mermen wear inside the tank. She enjoys picking out jewelry, sequins and other accessories for their outfits.

The bar is open seven days a week until 2 a.m., according to its website.

Wreck Bar: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The landmark Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Hotel draws guests with its shipwreck theme and underwater mermaid show.

Marina Duran-Anderson is the creator and director of the MeduSirena Underwater Swimshow at the bar and has five trained aquatic performers and four apprentices who entertain crowds on Fridays and Saturdays.

"You never see the same show twice, since our shows don't follow a stage show review format," Duran-Anderson said. "Our shows are organic."

Their 30-minute performances take place in the hotel's chlorinated pool, which features several portholes with a view into the lounge underneath.

Duran-Anderson, who has been performing underwater for more than 25 years, goes by the stage name "MeduSirena" as well as "Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid" since she is also an expert fire-eater and will include this skill in some of her acts.

If you happen to make your way to a show one day, be sure to toast the performers with a "Fire Eating Mermaid" cocktail at the bar.

Silverton Casino: Las Vegas, Nevada

You can find just about anything you could ever desire in Las Vegas -- including mermaids. The Silverton Casino Hotel's Mermaid Restaurant and Lounge is home to a 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium where five mermaids share a home with more than 4,000 tropical fish.

Heather Carrasco, who is also a synchronized swimmer and an Olympic Gold medalist from the 1996 Games, said swimming with the sea life is one of the best aspects of her job as a mermaid. "Believe it or not, stingrays are very loving, and I especially enjoy swimming with them in the aquarium."

The mermaid show, which is free of charge, is the only one in Las Vegas, according to Carrasco, and they swim Thursdays through Sundays.

Carrasco said she has two children who often remind her that she has the "coolest job ever."

Got another theme bar recommendation? Share your favorites below.

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