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Swimming with mermaids

Christina Mattison encourages her daughter Danika, 5, to swim through a hoop. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)2 / 8
Three "mermaids," Cheryl Podtburg, Suzy Anderson and Maya Hughes, are all smiles as they pose on the side of the pool for a photo. (Photo by Faye Baron)3 / 8
A skull and crossbones flies as lifeguards Sonja Buraglio, Ebonee Townsend and Austin Bongers, prepare for Mermaids and Pirates Day at the Y. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)4 / 8
YMCA members Benjamin Kaasa and his daughter, Meghann Kassa, 7, said the Mermaid and Pirates Day was a good way to have some "dad and daughter time" on a Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)5 / 8
Lisa Vega and her daughters, Felicia and Veronica, enter the Y pool for some fun.6 / 8
Cheryl Podtburg swims in the deep end as "Nemo" prepares to dive. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)7 / 8
"Treasures" were located throughout the pool. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)8 / 8

Outside the main entrance to the Duluth Area Family YMCA, Felicia Vega, 5, and Veronica Vega, 8, jumped up and down with glee as their mother, Lisa Vega, explained that they would be taking part in Mermaids and Pirate Day on Saturday afternoon.

Once inside the Y pool area, the sounds of mermaid tails slapping the water and children shouting with glee echoed in the air at the YMCA pool.

A skull and crossbones flag hung in the backdrop as lifeguards Sonja Buraglio, Ebonee Townsend and Austin Bongers, prepared for an afternoon of kids intermingling with mermaids and pirates.

'I hope it helps promotes our swim sessions," said Buraglio, a swim teacher. She said she enjoys the energy the young children have.

Three "mermaids," Cheryl Podtburg, Suzy Anderson and Maya Hughes, swam around the pool. They wore store-bought mermaid tails over their legs. At age 12, Maya was the youngest mermaid at the event. "It makes younger kids happy," she said of her mermaid tail. "And you can swim faster with it." She also said the tail was comfortable.

Podtburg is the Y aquatics director and Anderson is the aquatics coordinator. Podtburg said the purpose of the event was to promote the aquatics program and to give children a quick swimming assessment to see what level of lessons they should enroll in. The event was free to all including the general public.

At least one child rode on Podtburg while she swam in the deep end.

Anne Leino assisted her younger daughter Sylvie, 5, in strapping on a flotation device as her older daughter, Alice, 9, stood by eagerly awaiting jumping into the water.

Lisa Vega motioned to her daughters Felicia, 5, and Veronica, 8, to hold her hand as they used the swimming ladder to enter the shallow end.

Shannon Pegg was both excited and worried as her daughter, Shaeley Pegg, 3, swam in the deep end for the first time. She brought a neighbor, Chloe Morse, 10, along too.

"We like to come swimming," Pegg said. "This is the first time she's been in the deep end. It's scary to me. I like how they have lifeguards on her all the time."

Benjamin Kaasa and his daughter, Meghann Kassa, 7, played a message-in-a-bottle game supervised by Austin Bongers. "We came for some 'dad and daughter time,'" the Y member said.

"We hope that this positive experience will encourage more people to sign up for the Duluth Y swim lessons, and possibly join the Y," Podtburg said. "We look forward to hosting this event again in the future."

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at