The hot and dusty streets of Old Sacramento will teem with unusual aquatic life Sunday: mermaids and mermen.
The event is the sixth annual Promenade of Mermaids, a costume parade that celebrates a growing subculture of men, women and children who enjoy donning tails in public and making a splash.
“I think every little girl wants to be a mermaid when they grow up. Now we have that option,” said Jenny Plant, 31, of Turlock.
Plant goes by the name “Mermaid Elodea” when she’s wearing her glimmering tail of orange silicone, as she did Friday in the pool of the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, across the street from the state Capitol.
Friday’s charity swim for children and merpeople was part of what in recent years has become an extended series of events called the Sacramento Mermaid Weekend. It included a cleanup of river beaches Thursday and a shindig Saturday at the Dive Bar on K Street, where professional mermaids and mermen entertain guests in a huge tank above the bar.
For more information, including the route of Sunday’s promenade, which starts at 1 p.m., go to sacramentomermaids.com.
Rachel Smith, 28, one of the weekend’s organizers and the head mermaid at Dive Bar, said there are those who earn a living being mermaids, including performers for children’s pool parties, and others who do it just for fun.
“This weekend brings all the groups together,” Smith said.
She wore blue tights with a fish scale design that she called her land pants. Mermaids in Sunday’s parade will wear similar costumes or be rolled along in floats or special carts while wearing tails, she said.
They’re attended by helpers called “merwranglers.”
“We figure it out,” Smith said. “Mermaids are very resourceful.”
Mermen and mermaids also took part in Saturday’s Pride Festival on Capitol Mall.
Smith said she became fascinated with mermaids during a childhood of playing and performing in costumes. Her mother was a seamstress and made her first tail. The movies “Splash” and the “The Little Mermaid” inspired her and many others, she said.
“It’s empowering, especially for women,” she said. “It’s glamorous and dangerous.”
A half-dozen tail makers, with names such as Merbella and Mertailor, create custom tails that cost from $500 to $4,000.
Luckie Barlow is owner and founder of The Sacramento Mermaids, a professional group that entertains at children’s parties and other events. She also organizes the mermaid promenade in Old Sacramento and tries to draw attention to water issues, such as the drought.
“We’re pretty much mermaids on a mission,” she said.
Barlow recently received her new 50-pound red silicone tail after waiting three years for it to be made and paying $4,000. She plans to swim with whale sharks off the coast of Mexico soon.
“We can keep up with the biggest creatures in the ocean,” she said.
Putting on a tail isn’t so speedy. It requires mermaids or mermen to lubricate their lower bodies with a special gel, then slowly squeeze into the form-fitting tail, often with a little help.
Though mermaids are especially feminine, mermen are anything but, said Derick Scott, 22, whose merman name is “Dauntless.” He wore a blue tail and a shell necklace and was the only merman in the hotel pool Friday with about 10 mermaids.
Scott said he almost drowned as a child and was afraid of the water, but professional mermaids taught him to swim. Now, he said. “I feel like Triton, the all-powerful sea god.”
He slapped his tail against the water and splashed spectators sitting around the hotel pool. Guests stood on their balconies watching the mermaids and taking videos on their cellphones.
Plant, or Mermaid Elodea, swam with a young girl named Chelsea and guided her safely away from the deep end of the pool. They sunk just below the surface and blew “bubble kisses” at each other. The little girl looked delighted.
“It’s the call of something different,” Plant said, “coupled with glamour and princessness.”