Other than when the rains come fast filling our washes, we don't have too many bodies of water to call our own, but Lizzie Mead, owner of Silver Sea Jewelry on 4th Avenue, works hard to allow the desert mermaids of Tucson a time to bask in the late summer sun for a day (and right on into the evening). She helps organize and run the Return of the Mermaids, a mermaid-themed event that brings live music, performance, games, costumes, crafts, vendor specials, general mer-merriment and much more to the streets of Fourth Avenue and Downtown Tucson. The event, now in its third year, brings together the community in celebration of Tucson's underwater charm and penchant for all things eccentric. For more details, go to the event's Facebook page.
Can you tell me a little about Return of the Mermaids?
It is a monsoon celebration and mermaid parade that is a two-district event with Fourth Avenue and downtown.
What was the inspiration for the parade?
David Aguirre actually had the idea of doing the parade. I had a date, initially, for a mermaid event for children and David Aguirre wanted to do a mermaid parade and we kind of combined. So him and I both do planning and the admin work for Return of the Mermaids along with the Merchants Association.
How has the mermaid parade evolved since it first started?
It's grown. It started out right off the bat as a two-district event. The addition this year is the Mermaid Ball. It has grown because now we have another event after the beach closes. A Mermaid Ball at Mr. Heads with a surf band and belly-dancing mermaids. Mr. Heads is a good location for it because they are an art gallery and bar, so they have a very artistic kind of bent to what they do anyway and this is very much an art event.
In your opinion, what makes Tucson a good community for something like this?
I think in Tucson we like quirky things. We like unusual things that maybe don't necessarily suit us, yet somehow do. And this event is very Tucson quirky. We're having a mermaid event in a place where there is no water. A mermaid event with no real beach (laughter). And I think that we long for the ocean here, not all of us can just get in our cars and go to the ocean. This brings a little bit of the ocean to Tucson.
And what's been your favorite part about the mermaid parade thus far?
Oh man, they're so many things I love about it. But I think probably the reaction of the kids to Odette the Mermaid, because we do "Meet a Real Mermaid" and Mermaid Odette is a professional mermaid in Tucson. And when the kids see her in her little lagoon with her tail, that's a real mermaid. And they respond in the most delightful ways to it. Like, little girls have cried. It's adorable, and they're just fascinated by her. So to watch the kids with Odette is probably my favorite part.
During the summer it's so slow in Tucson, it's nice to have an event like this.
It's a nice little party for the area. It kind of signifies the end of summer. We have this, and then the college students come back shortly after and then we're into fall. So, it's kind of a celebration of the end of summer. Like we survived summer (laughter). And it's a nice boost for the area. I mean, the merchant feedback on Fourth Avenue is very positive for the event. And they support the event by donating prizes for the kid's costume contest and having in-store events at their places, so they're very supportive. The other neat-o new thing this year is that Tucson Thrift has gutted their windows and created a mermaid habitat where there will be live mermaids in the windows. So you'll have mermaids doing mermaid things in the windows, and Mermaid Michelina and Flam Chen will both have performances in the windows. So I mean, that's super awesome, I can't wait to see what that's like.