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September 30, 2014

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Just add water: Mermaids feel right at home at MerCon

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

The mermaid convention and awards at Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas on Aug. 12 and 13, 2011.

The weirdest part about the first-ever MerCon, or mermaid convention, held Friday at the Silverton, isn’t that you can actually find adults willing to dress up as mythical creatures and hang out in public. That sort of thing is common enough at events like ComicCon, and this is just role-play for The Little Mermaid and Splash generations.

Mermaid Convention and Awards at Silverton

The mermaid convention and awards at Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas on Aug. 12 and 13, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Nope, the weirdest part is watching the mermaids get to the pool. There are two dozen or so immobile women being carried like sick puppies, sometimes by strangers because buff dudes are in short supply here. Some cheaper performance tails have zippers in the fins so the girls can stand flat-footed, in which case they must wobble centimeter by centimeter over to the pool because their feet are still bound together. It’s clunky and awkward and hilarious.

When they get into the water it’s a different story. I watch as one swift dolphin kick propels a mermaid across the shallow pool. Halfway through she turns, her hair sweeping and the color of her handmade tail catching the light. It’s a beautiful sight, and it’s obvious she’s at ease. I ask her later—her name is Malena Sharkey—whether it’s difficult to learn to swim with the tail. She shakes her head, “For a lot of people, all of this comes really naturally.”

While we’re talking another mermaid comes up and splashes us with her giant tail. I shake the water off my notebook and think this is probably karma getting back at me for laughing at the mermaids. The completely unfazed Sharkey laughs it off, “Just a little mermaid sister humor.”

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