Part of that world: Puebloans become real-life mermaids
By LUKE LYONS
PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — Some children want to be astronauts when they grow up. Some want to be firefighters or police, while others teachers or doctors.
Not Pixy Wright.
Wright wanted to be a mermaid.
"When I was four I became obsessed with mermaids," she said. "Every career day, everyone would say they wanted to be a cop or a fireman or a ballerina. I would say I wanted to be a mermaid."
She kept the dream alive through middle and high school and college.
Now, she is in fact a mermaid — with a tail and a pod of mermaids and mermen to boot.
"In 2011 I was talking to the right friend at the right time," Wright said. "Then, on my birthday that year, I got a tail in the mail as a gift and it just kind of took off from there."
Mermaid's Lagoon was born in 2012, and since more than 45 guys and gals have donned tails and traveled to Renaissance Festivals, fairs and other venues.
Currently eight members are part of the Assana (Gaelic for waterfall) Mermaids: Camber Mauth, Jaclyn Gutierrez, Maggie Aranda, Alex Hasui, Michaela Lange, Cynthia Bloodworth and Dakota Renz (a merman).
Joining the mermaids are three pirates: Stix Mauth, Bill Wright and Dan Crum.
The group practices on Tuesdays at the Colorado State University-Pueblo, pool. And collectively, the Mermaid's Lagoon continue to put smiles on fans' faces and make dreams come true.
THE MERMAID CRAZE
Wright's obsession with mermaids began after seeing Steven Spielberg's film "Splash" as a kid.
For Wright, seeing Daryl Hanna rock a tail throughout the film was proof enough that she too could be a mermaid.
"People kept saying, 'This isn't real, this isn't real,'" Wright said. "I would argue that 'It is real, it's right there.'"
Her love of mermaids and her passion to become one continued to grow, the older she grew.
After she got her first tail, Wright began getting friends at work involved.
When Mermaid's Lagoon began, a worldwide mermaid craze was taking place, spurring the company to appear at festivals and events across the United States.
"We went to New Orleans, did a two-month show there as mermaids and it just created a pandemic," Wright said. "There's mers all across the world. It's become a fitness craze. There's actually mer schools across the nation.
"We just happened to catch the front wave of it."
They've gone to the Texarkana Renaissance Faire in Arkansas, festivals in Texas and New Jersey and the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur.
Wright said she hopes to someday be able to own land and put together a Renaissance festival of her own.
She also hopes to travel beyond the United States.
"We have big dreams," Wright said. "We're little fish in a big pond. Hopefully someday we'll have 40 acres, and hopefully we can do some international travel."
BECOMING A MERMAID
To become a mermaid, a man or woman must first be a comfortable swimmer.
Next, they must strap Plexiglas and duct-tape to their feet and learn the basics of what happens when they have a fin on.
Next, they wear flippers.
Then, at last, they put on the tail.
Once they can swim in said tail — boom — they're a mermaid.
"That's all it takes," Wright said. "There's no prerequisite. There's no resume. It's for everybody. It can take anywhere from a month of practicing once a week to six months."
There's no body shaming, no racial or age prejudice. A person's background is moot when it comes to making a splash as a merperson.
And, once you're part of the pod, you're family.
"The team is really good about taking people in and showing them techniques and taking them under their wings," Wright said. "We really do work as a team. You come, you show up, you swim.
"The more the merrier."
(Or maybe make that mer-rier.)
And whether a person is shy or extraverted, there's a place for everyone.
At "dry shows" the mermaids have a photo station, do periculture (taking pearls out of oysters, polishing them and then selling them or making jewelry) and greet adoring fans.
"If you can get in and out of a tail safely, you can do a dry show," Wright said. "When they get more comfortable to bear a fin, then the sky's the limit."
Now a merperson can participate in a wet show, where the mermaids start as humans but then don their tails and take to the water.
AN EXPENSIVE ENDEAVOR
Accoutrements and traveling are not cheap.
Tails can cost anywhere from $200-$12,000 -- though most of the tails worn by those in Mermaid's Lagoon are made by Wright and the others.
"I've been a seamstress since I was 10 and I started experimenting with different materials," Wright said. "Most of the girls, I made their tails."
The cost of materials adds up. And as most of the pod are still in college or working at full-time jobs, the mermaids must fund raise to help continue their passion.
"We do fundraising through the Yankee Candle Company and we do booth fairs and do periculture demonstrations," Wright said. "It's a lot of work and a lot of money, so we're always asking the community for support."
THE JOY OF MERMAIDING
Wright and her husband have 10 kids between them.
All 10 kids are part of the pod.
"We have a really big family," Wright said. "All six of our girls get into fin. All four of our boys have been pirates."
Mom and dad's passion sets an example for their children.
"This really reinforces that you really can do anything you set your mind to," she said.
That message is extended to children who meet the men and women of Mermaid's Lagoon, too.
In fact, seeing the kids' reactions to real-life mermaids is Wright's favorite part of what she does.
"We can hear the kids from blocks away," she said. "We hear, 'Mommy, Mommy, a mermaid! You just know when they come up, they're going to have biggest smiles.
"That's the biggest joy any of us have."
Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com