As Mermaid Week in Hays County begins Sept. 9, the Mermaid Society of San Marcos looks forward to its inaugural downtown Mermaid Parade and SPLASH festival Sept. 17, which caps off a week devoted to the arts and positive river stewardship.
The organization, according to its website, is a grassroots community organization committed to strengthening connectivity among “like-spirited community partners,” and to work creatively and collaboratively towards a “shared vision in support of the arts, river stewardship, historic preservation and a local living economy.”
Although the Mermaid Society is based in San Marcos, its mission is a universal one that concerns all residents of Hays County, as the San Marcos River and Aquarena Springs remain an integral part of Edwards Aquifer, the source of drinking water for millions.
For longtime area resident Theresa Schwartz, the San Marcos River is a “very special place.” Her love of the river stemmed from her experience working as an Aquamaid in the 1960s at Aquarena Springs, the starting point of the San Marcos River.
As a member of a very exclusive club, Schwartz says she is supportive of the Mermaid Society’s mission. She said they recognized issues surrounding people removing plant life from the river in order to sell it for fish tank decoration. It’s a practice which has since been stopped as plant life in the river is now protected by law.
But the Mermaid Soceity’s celebration of the river brought fond memories of her years as an Aquamaid. She said Aquamaids were “very well protected and supervised” by staff at Aquarena Springs.
“I have so many great memories and stories from working there,” Schwartz said.
One such story involves an Aquamaid, who did something daring and a little controversial during a show.
The Aquamaid, who Schwartz swears will remain nameless, was involved in a picnic scene with two other Aquamaids in the Submarine theatre.
It was at that time when a catfish, who was already notorious for swimming into the Aquamaids with his painful whiskers, tried to do it again.
That’s when the Aquamaid, who had lost her patience with the creature, took a fork from the mock picnic basket and plunged it into the annoying fish.
Schwartz said the reactions from the Aquamaids was a mixture of humor and terror as the audience full of crying children watched as the impaled fish drifted slowly to the bottom.
Other memories Schwartz has reflect the simplicity and beauty of the Aquamaids Mermaid shows.
According to Schwartz being a part of the Aquamaid team was a very special honor.
For the Mermaid Society, encouraging Hays County residents to foster a sense of stewardship for the San Marcos River and the Aquifer, which they say brings a life-giving precious resource flowing thorough the veins of Central Texas, is paramount.
When it came to the festival, Shwartz, who along with 15 of her friends were invited by the society to walk in the parade, said she was going just going “to go with it.”