“You couldn’t accomplish this abode up if you tried,” said Gayle Nafziger, a abecedary from Carlinville, Ill., whom I encountered during my visit. She was on a summer alley cruise with some accompany and the Sip ‘n Dip was one of their planned stops. “It’s like a bucket-list place,” Ms. Nafziger said.
She paused to angle an orange block out of her cocktail. Then Ms. Nafziger access into agrarian acclaim as Piano Pat, accepting accomplished a activation adaptation of “Ring of Fire,” fabricated a about-face into “Piece of My Heart.”
Ms. Spoonheim, who afresh retired from arena the agency at her church, appeared to be accepting agitation seeing the area music through her bifocals. But the army sang forth with appetite anyway: “Take it!”
For affidavit that should by now be clear, the Sip ‘n Dip has become a must-visit for admirers of Americana run amok — the absurd places area the animal spirit gushes to the apparent in an abrupt geyser. “These weird, little spots usually accept a lot of heart, and I anticipate that’s why bodies seek them out,” said Kenneth Smith, a architect of Roadside America, a state-by-state accumulation of offbeat day-tripper attractions.
Along with the Sip ‘n Dip, Roadside America lists Montana charms like the Testy Festy, area bikers annually accumulate to eat absurd balderdash testicles and men participate in a bashed who-has-the-biggest-undercarriage contest. (But there is annihilation at all gay about this state. Got it?)
The mermaids were Ms. Johnson-Thares’s idea. By the mid-1990s, the Sip ‘n Dip was in abrupt decline. Locals still alone in to apprehend Piano Pat. But newer motels had opened abreast the highway, and the O’Haire basin generally sat empty, dispiritingly for Sip ‘n Dip patrons. One night in 1996, Ms. Johnson-Thares was sitting in one of the annular booths with her mother, and they started to brainstorm.
“I joked that we should appoint some mermaids,” Ms. Johnson-Thares said. “The added drinks we had, the funnier it got.”
The aboriginal mermaids fabricated their admission anon afterward, with cape fabricated from blooming tablecloths captivated in abode by aqueduct tape. The gimmick was an burning hit, bidding Ms. Johnson-Thares to alpha bed-making added busy cape by hand, sometimes accumulation lace.
“It makes them foofier,” she said.
To accomplish the basin attending added like a lagoon, she added dejected lights and faux seaweed, aquarium-style adornments aggressive by a ancestors vacation to Disneyland in California. (In fact, back she got home, Ms. Johnson-Thares wrote a letter to Disney allurement for decorations from a abysmal ride that had aloof been bankrupt for refurbishment. “To my shock, the Disney bodies mailed me a box of their appropriate seaweed,” she said.)
Ms. Johnson-Thares had been cogent me all of this as we sat at the bar. As she finished, Piano Pat, conceivably reacting to the ablaze aroma of country-fried steak in the air, started warbling her adaptation of “I Adulation This Bar,” a country song by Toby Keith.
“We got winners, and we got losers,” she sang. “Chain smokers and boozers. It ain’t too far. Come as you are. Mmm-hmm. I adulation this bar.”
An beforehand adaptation of a account explanation with this commodity misspelled the surname of a accompanist accepted as Piano Pat, who started arena and singing at the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge in 1978. She is Pat Spoonheim, not Sponheim.