In the summer and fall of 2000, the sidewalks, parks and fountains of Norfolk, Virginia were filled with mermaids. A pair of mermaids made of mirrors reflected the sun back onto the faces of passerby; a mermaid trailing copper locks greeted sailors coming into the port; a mermaid wearing the painted "cloth" of West Africa brightened one of the City's historic buildings undergoing renovation.
Some mermaids are funny, such as the one wrapped as a chocolate candy bar – with a bite out of her tail. Three are electric – lighting the night with their bold colors.
They are regal, playful or somber; they celebrate life, local attractions, and causes from literacy to regional cooperation. One traveled to Virginia Beach trailing stars – dedicated to the "individual spirits and determination to live independent lives" of people with disabilities. The more gregarious mermaids arrived at their post accompanied by banners and bands and cheering children – the shy ones simply appeared – with a flash of a white truck and workmen affixing a sturdy bolt – to fill a once empty corner.
The mermaids grew in number as a flotilla of international tall ships drew closer to Hampton Roads. Unlike the sirens of legend rumored to cause shipwrecks, Norfolk's mermaids – now nearly forty strong – cheerfully welcomed OpSail 2000, the largest gathering of tall ships ever to visit the region.
As summer gave way to fall, Norfolk's mermaids grew to more than 100. And the soggy, cool weather gave way to bright, dry days. Mermaids ventured beyond the confines of Norfolk; traveling to Virginia Beach, Newport News, even York County. In the late fall, one siren jumped onto a yacht heading for Florida; another was was negotiating for a spot on a Norfolk Southern freight train to New York – to promote the Mermaids on Parade charity auction.