2018 Mermaid Parade in Coney Island: A refreshing tradition of New York most iconic shore

This year marked the 36th anniversary of the colorful and joyful Mermaid Parade that takes place every year in June on Surf Avenue and the boardwalk of the iconic neighborhood of Coney Island.
Hundreds of thousands of “mermaids,” including “Queen Mermaid” Amanda Palmer and “King Neptune” Neil Gaiman, streamed into Brooklyn for the 2018 edition of New York celebration of the ocean and the summer solstice.
The parade pays homage to the Coney Island Mardi Gras parades of the early 20th century. During this era, Coney Island was the primary amusement park destination for those in the New York area. Like the annual Village Halloween Parade, the Mermaid Parade evokes the artistic spirit of Mardi Gras.
The event often attracts a several thousand actual participants, along with hundreds of thousands of spectators, some of whom have traveled to Coney Island’s beach primarily to escape the heat which often marks the beginning of summer.
The Mermaid parade is known for marine costumes, occasional partial nudity, as well as more family oriented fare. There are sections in the parade for vehicles of all kinds, for floats, for groups, and for individuals. Mermaids and sea creatures of every shape and size are represented.
Each year the Mermaid Parade features, as mentioned above, a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid, and Founder Dick Zigun said the parade has “gone the rock and roll route” this year by choosing Palmer (singer for the Dresden Dolls) and renowned author Gaiman, who have supported the arts and Coney Island for the past several years.
A completely original creation of Coney Island USA (the not for profit arts organization at 1208 Surf Avenue), the Mermaid Parade is the nation’s largest art parade and one of New York City’s greatest summer events.
A celebration of ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside, it showcases over 3,000 creative individuals from all over the five boroughs and beyond, opening the summer with incredible art, entrepreneurial spirit and community pride. The parade highlights Coney Island Pageantry based on a century of many Coney parades, celebrates the artistic vision of the masses, and ensures that the summer season is a success by bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the amusement area in a single day.
The MERMAID PARADE specifically was founded in 1983 with 3 goals: it brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public.

Unlike most parades, this one has no ethnic, religious, or commercial aims. It’s a major New York holiday invented by artists! An American version of the summer-solstice celebration, it takes pride of place with West African Water Festivals and Ancient Greek and Roman street theater. It’s features participants dressed in hand-made costumes based on themes and categories set by us. This creates an artistic framework on which artists can improvise, resulting in the flourishing of frivolity, dedication, pride, and personal vision that has become how New York celebrates summer.
This year edition was no exception in terms of extravagance and amusement, as well as the presentation of current pop-culture or political topics: that’s why we could see a sign reciting “Let’s Make Atlantis Great Again”, or the “marine” version of Wakanda from Black Panter. Every excuse is good to unleash creativity and imagination, which is what this ultimately is all about!

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

 

Article and pictures by Joseph Ralph Fraia

 

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