Dive into mermaid school
Saturday, a group of mermaids will gather in Yelm.
These mythical creatures — half human and half fish — are generally said to be found, reasonably enough, in the water. So what’s luring them to the prairie?
It’s the first Yelm Mermaid Festival, where mermaids (or regular folk in mermaid attire) can meet and greet other mermaids, including a few professional mermaids; listen to stories told by a mermaid and harp music played by another; shop and do mermaid-related craft projects.
If you’re wondering what exactly a professional mermaid is, festival organizer and lifelong mermaid enthusiast Natalie Ames has the answer.
“It’s somebody whose job it is to be a mermaid,” she told The Olympian. “They have them at certain zoos, where they go into a tank with the fish. And in Florida, there are mermaid shows.”
As it happens, the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia will host a professional mermaid — Mermaid Linden, a Los Angeles educator and entertainer — next month.
Plans to have some pros from Seattle perform in pools at the Yelm festival fell through, said Ames of Yelm.
In fact, there won’t be much water in evidence — and the forecast doesn’t even call for rain. The city has nearly completed construction on a spray park, but city officials have told Ames that it won’t be ready in time.
“At this point, I’m hoping for a mermaid miracle,” she said.
It could be said that Ames herself is proof that mermaids can thrive on dry land. Some people — particularly children who’ve seen her swimming in her mermaid tail with a monofin — believe her to be a mermaid.
A monofin, for those who don’t yearn to join the merfolk, is basically a set of swim fins that allow a swimmer to move through the water dolphin-style.
Though the festival will include a 1 p.m. costume contest, don’t expect to see merfolk hopping around in tails. They can be worn only in the water.
“I grew up on Eld Inlet, out on Cooper Point Road,” Ames said. “I used to spend hours in the water. I loved being in water and I believed I could turn into a mermaid if I stayed in the water long enough.”
She sees the irony in the fact that the fest, which she hopes will become an annual event, is being held in landlocked Yelm.
“I get that Yelm isn’t exactly near water,” she said, “but it’s such a great little town. People here are amazing and so supportive.”
It was Yelm’s UFO Festival — held for the past two years on Prairie Park Lane — that inspired the Mermaid Fest.
“Last summer, my husband and I were driving through town, and we noticed the UFO Festival,” Ames said. “I said, ‘You know what this town needs? A mermaid festival.’ ”
While it now has one of those, Yelm no longer has the UFO Festival: It has moved to the Thurston County Fairgrounds. Now called Earth-UFO Fest, it’s scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Find out more at https://www.thetriadartstheater.com/yelmufofest.
Yelm Mermaid Festival
- What: This new festival will gather mermaids from as far as Seattle for mermaid meet and greets, music and storytelling, costume contests for children and adults, and more.
- When: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, July 20
- Where: Yelm City Park, 115 Mosman Ave. SE, Yelm
- Admission: Free
- More information: facebook.com/yelmmermaidfestival
Meet Mermaid Linden
- What: Mermaid Linden, a professional mermaid and educator, will teach children about Puget Sound creatures and pose for pictures next month at the Hands On Children’s Museum, which will also feature mermaid-related crafts during Linden’s visit.
- When: 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Aug. 1-3 and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 2
- Where: Hands On Children’s Museum, 414 Jefferson St. NE, Olympia
- Tickets: Daytime shows are free with museum admission ($14.95; $12.95 for seniors, military, foster families and first responders; free for members, babies under 18 months and EBT cardholders). The evening show is part of the museum’s First Friday Night, which offers free admission for the first two people in a family or group, with a $2 charge for each additional person.
- More information: hocm.org, 360-956-0818