NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Legend tells of a tale of sirens that stole sailors’ hearts on the high seas. This Valentine’s Day, 10 On Your Side is celebrating our resident sirens: the Norfolk mermaids.
This year, the mermaids are celebrating their 20th birthday.
“Everyone loves a mermaid,” said Georgia Mason, one of the artists behind the mermaids. “A lot of fantasy, fun, you know, celebration.”
The Norfolk mermaids have been an iconic part of the city’s landscape since 1999, when Pete and Bess Decker brought the idea to city council. Pete passed away in 2012. Their son, Phillip, says the mermaids give the city an identity.
“I love it. It just makes me think of my parents, how much they love the city, you know. It’s just a great idea,” said Phillip Decker, who owns D’Egg diner in Norfolk.
He said, “You see Norfolk and you see the mermaids. It’s just, it’s a life celebrated daily.”
Back in 1999, a local sculptor created 130 mermaid castings. Local artists, including Georgia Mason, decorated them.
“I’ve probably made about 36 of them, and then I’ve probably restored at least 15,” Mason said.
10 On Your Side caught up with Mason in front of “Lily,” her mermaid in the Norfolk Botanical Garden.
Mason said, “All of her glass is hand-cut, mirrored glass is for the leaves, and the background is another kind of glass.”
Each mermaid weighs roughly 120 pounds and takes anywhere from two to three months to create. Each is unique to its location and enchanting in its own way.
“There’s a fantasy of maybe mermaids are really out there,” said Mason. “I think that’s a lot of it, they’ve got such personalities.”
Mason now has the mold to create more mermaids, something she hopes continues.
“20 years, people still, they’re still here, still going, people are still excited about it,” she said.
20 years later, the lure of the mermaids is still going strong.
The City of Norfolk is inviting you to be a part of the “shellebration.” You can read more details here.