The first ever MerMagic Con took place in Manassas Virginia on February 22nd through 24th, and I was lucky enough to attend! So for the many of you who have been asking me about my experience, I have decided to write a blog post about it. I am currently living in Westchester County, New York, and since I didn't drive down to Virginia, it took me quite a while to get there. I first had to take a Metro North train from my town to Grand Central, and then the 7 train (subway) over to Times Square which is about a block away from Port Authority. The last time I had been to Virginia, which was in January of 2018 to visit my best friend, I had taken a Greyhound bus down to Washington D.C. and then the D.C. metro. So I decided to do the same this time. The ride from NYC to D.C. is about 5 and a half hours, thankfully the Greyhound buses are pretty comfortable and sometimes even have outlets so you can charge your devices. They also advertise free wifi which tends to only work for me once in a while. So once I got to Washington D.C., I took the metro to the closest station to Manassas, which happened to be the last stop on the orange line. From there I took an Uber to my motel. Most of the con attendees were staying at the Wyndham in the area, where apparently there had been a discount offered. However this deal wasn't clearly advertised on the MerMagic Con social media pages or website until after I had already booked my non-refundable stay at the local Days Inn, which despite the offered discount on the hotel, was still the cheaper option.
After I settled into my room, I went to Taco Bell for the first time in years for dinner that evening. The food was very mediocre and did not sit well with my stomach, despite it being supposedly vegan since I did not get the cheese or chipotle mayo sauce. My motel was actually within walking distance to the hotel, but because the area was not walking friendly at all, so to get over to the Friday night mixer at the Wyndham, I had to take a $3.00 Uber. I arrived a bit late for the poolside mixer, but was able to meet up with the con attendees at the bar and restaurant at the hotel, where I enjoyed a "Mermaid Martini" and got to meet several people. I stayed there for a couple of hours before I decided to head back to my motel room and get some sleep as well as prepare for the main day of the event, which was Saturday.
On Saturday I woke up at 6:30am to get ready to be at the Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center by 8:00am. My first class was Freediving Academic, where we got to learn about what freediving is and how people are able to do it. I've watched a lot of videos of people freediving, so it's something I've been interested in learning more about. The teacher seemed very passionate about freediving, which made me feel happy because I love hearing people talk about their passions. The class was about an hour long and it was pretty interesting, it was also required in order to take the class in the pool later that day. After this I explored the vendor hall for a while, until I took my next class, which was Ecomermaiding and Ethical Interactions with Wildlife. This class ran from 11:00am to 12:00pm and was very insightful and educational. As someone who loves and promotes sustainability and the ethical treatment of all animals on both my social media and in my real life, I feel it is important to continuously educate myself on these topics. Right after this class, I had to run to catch up with my Freediving class in the pool. I was hoping we would be doing more actual diving, but all we did was a few breathing exercises and laying still with our faces in the water. I didn't feel like I learned anything from this class honestly, aside from how cold the pool was and that it's more difficult to hold your breath when you're cold.
After this, I hung out in the hot tub for a while, which was probably my favorite part of the facility. For lunch, there were food trucks sitting in the cold, rainy parking lot to grab food from. I ended up having a veggie bowl from the Turkish food truck, since they were out of falafel, and a side of cajun fries from the southern food truck. The food was alright and hurt my stomach, so I had to take a break from swimming until I felt better. I'm pretty sure the veggie bowl had some sort of mayo based sauce with dairy in it, even though only tahini sauce was advertised, which is likely why it didn't sit well with me. During this time, I did a little shopping in the vendor hall, where I picked up a few crochet narwhals and whales for myself and my family from Nerd Stitchery Crafts and a mermaid-themed reusable pad from Bleed Geeks (which I am currently using and it is so comfortable). The next class I took was the Adults Mermaid Class which went from 4:00 to 5:00pm. This class was good because the teacher gave me some tips to improve the way I swim in my mermaid tail and even how to do a couple of tricks.
Chatting with a fellow mermaid during the Adults Mermaid Class | Photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/DC Refined
The next class I took, which was my favorite, was Discover Scuba! Trying scuba diving has been on my bucket list for a while and I'm so happy I got a chance to learn about and practice with the equipment. I did have to buy a separate ticket to attend this class but it was totally worth it. The instructors were both helpful and entertaining. Since there were three instructors and only three students for my class, which went from 5:00 to 6:30pm, it felt very personalized and I was able to get all of my questions answered. The school that taught this class was Coral Edge Adventures, and they were great so I highly recommend them. I just wish they were based closer to where I live so I could get my scuba diving certification from them more easily!
Discover Scuba Class
The last class I took on Saturday was Mermaid Makeup & Styling which went from 7:00 to 8:00pm. This class went over ways to make your hairstyle and makeup looks last when performing or posing for photos underwater. The teacher gave us some really good tips, especially about how to style and take care of wigs. Most of the products she suggested were not vegan or cruelty free, so unfortunately I will have to find alternatives since I only use cruelty free and mostly vegan makeup. For those who are curious, I am currently in the process of replacing all of my beauty products with vegan ones, as of right now they are all cruelty free. I liked the class though and thought it was helpful since I am hoping to start performing as a mermaid in the near future. As a performer and model who likes to shoot at the beach, it's very important for my makeup to be long lasting and water resistant.
There was a gala on Saturday night, but I decided not to attend because it was a separate ticket which was almost the same price as the con ticket and I don't own any gala-worthy dresses so I also would've had to buy one. I really didn't mind though because I was so tired by the end of the day, all I wanted to do was go back to my motel room, shower and go to sleep. So I got an Uber, which I had swing by Wendy's so I could grab my favorite fries, and then went back to my room. Once I got there I hung my mermaid stuff (tail, active-wear top I used for scuba, bikini and towel) to dry, showered and answered a few messages on Instagram before I fell asleep.
Sunday was the final day of MerMagic Con. I checked out of Days Inn since I had only booked my room for Friday and Saturday night to save money and since I had to go back to work on Monday. I arrived at the Freedom Center around 10:00am and hung out by the pool with a group of other merfolk (gender neutral term for con attendees sporting tails) for a while, then went into the hot tub. At noon all (or almost all) of the merfolk gathered for a group photo, it was amazing to see so many! After several photos and videos were taken, most of us hopped into the pool for a swim in our tails. And I have to say, this was the most magical part of the whole con. Swimming around with so many other mers was absolutely amazing, and just goes to show that no matter how many people think something you love is silly, you will find people who share your passions. After this I went back into the hot tub (without my tail) for a little while to warm up before drying off and packing my things to head home. For those who are interested in attending next year, tickets are already on sale! I would go again, but I think I'm going to wait a little bit to purchase a ticket, just because I have a tendency to be very spontaneous about where I decide to travel or live, so a year in advance is a big commitment for me. For more content from MerMagic Con, head over to my Instagram (@arielledalia) where I have a story highlight called "Mermaiding" or the MerMagic Con social media pages!
Trying (lol) to do the wave with a group of merfolk | Photo by Graceanne Taylor