Children in Sussex, N.B., are getting the opportunity to swim like a mermaid this weekend with a visit from a Halifax company that says it aims to educate and entertain children through play and imagination.
Halifax Mermaids' owner Stephanie Brown, or "Raina Mermaid" as she is known in her costume, says mermaids look and act the part with their costumes and tails and encourage children to be use their imagination.
Kids also get a chance to try on a tail and learn how to use the plastic and rubber fins.
"We tend to train them in the model fin first, and then for kids that are very competent swimmers, we add a spandex tail over top to give them the feeling of being a mermaid," said Brown, who added the fins also have safety releases.
An event in Sussex continues Sunday, Jan. 17 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Using her degrees in education and child development, Brown says she created a job where she could combine that training with her passion for entertainment and her love of the ocean.
She says her goal is to provide children with "edu-tainment."
Swimming as mermaid takes practice
While the children use a tail that weighs about half a kilogram, the mermaids use one that is much heavier.
"The professional level tail is about 40 pounds of silicone which sounds really heavy — and it is on land — but the second you get into water it's actually quite buoyant," Brown said.
The "mermaids" put weights in the tails to hold them down, she said.
"Your feet are encased and locked in silicone," she said. "You learn to do the dolphin kick and you work with your core."
Brown describes it as very similar to free-diving and says she's learned to hold her breath for 2.5 minutes.
Motivated by childhood illness
Performing as a mermaid, Brown is doing something she wanted to do after struggling with a chronic illness as a child.
"I saw a woman performing as a mermaid. She was very graceful and I said, 'I want to do that because I'm anything but graceful'," Brown said.
"I just never thought it would take off like it has. We are recognized internationally, we've won awards, I publish books now and we tour frequently," said Brown. "It's really become a dream job."
Mermaids popularity in pop cultures has grown over the years with shows throughout the United States and their portrayal in movies and cartoons.
"It's a really good time to be a mermaid," said Brown.