NORFOLK — Buffalo New York has its buffalo, Cinncinatti has its flying pigs and inspired by Chicago’s cows, Norfolk has its mermaids.
Now, as the city’s signature symbol celebrates its 20th anniversary, the more than 24,000 enrolled at Old Dominion University are getting their own mermaid to bring “a sense of belonging” and represent students’ connection to their campus, said Isaiah Lucas, president of ODU’s Student Government Association.
“The mermaid is also about tradition and growth so we want students to every year take a picture with the mermaid to show their growth over the years,” Lucas said.
The mermaid is coming 🤫 @TheIsaiahLucas @ODUSEES @ODU @ODUAuxServices @ODULibraries @ODUnews @oduwebbctr @ODU_VPSEES @ODUHRL @LawOdu we are excited to welcome this new addition to our campus soon 🤩 pic.twitter.com/C8PeUazi5Z
— ODU SGA (@ODUSGA) September 21, 2019
Although Lisa Jones, ODU’s director of marketing and branding, said the mermaid is a collaborative project between ODU art students, Student Government Association members, and “mermaid specialist” and ODU alumna, Georgia Mason, university officials remain mum on its design with plans for an unveiling in spring 2020.
Lucas said it was important for the Student Government Association to head the project.
“The best additions to our campus are those which are student-driven and student-focused and the mermaid embodies this,” he said.
In November 1999, late Norfolk attorney Peter Decker introduced the idea of “Mermaids on Parade” to 300 business and civic leaders after he said his wife, Bess, had been to Chicago during the famous “Cows on Parade” exhibit, according to the city’s website.
The site credits, Kevin Gallup, a local sculptor, who then mass-produced the initial 130 mermaids soon after Decker’s presentation for local businesses to adopt and local artists to customize.
The result two decades later is a public art exhibit featuring an unknown number of unique mermaids spanned across the city for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.
Officials at the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau encourage “mermaid spotters” to pose with and take photos of mermaids they see throughout the city and post using the hashtags #Mermaid20 and #NorfolkVA so they can “keep track with her birthday photo album.”