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Brooklyn's 2018 Mermaid Parade: Lots of Hot Fun

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 17, 2018 21:43

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This year's installment of the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade featured excellent weather, a huge crowd, frivolous fun, political and social commentary and lots of exposed skin.

Each year since 1983, Coney Island has been the site of the Mermaid Parade, a loud, colorful spectacle that is part Mardi Gras, part creative arts endeavor, part burlesque and a lot of fun. Hundreds of participants march while thousands more watch, as costumed New Yorkers and visitors stroll and dance along Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk in the iconic Coney Island section of southern Brooklyn.

This event helps promote the activities and cultural offerings of the legendary Coney Island, and some participants also incorporate elements of June's Pride month. It is a loud, brassy and playful affair, and the backdrop to the parade includes landmarked buildings and amusement park rides and structures such as Nathan's Hotdogs, the Parachute Jump, the Cyclone Roller Coaster and much more. 

This year the weather was ideal for the parade, with a sunny sky and warm temperature. New Yorkers and tourists of various ages and ethnic groups gathered in throngs to see marching bands (some highly skilled, others beyond sloppy) as well as dance groups, individuals and pairs, family units and other groups clad in nautical-themed costumes as well as other get-ups. Marchers and observers wore costumes and makeup, carried props and held signs mostly silly and some serious.

The Mardi Gras undertone was quite pronounced, with some marchers pitching candy and plastic beaded necklaces to eager crowds. Some groups played live music, including a bagpipe contingent, while others blasted recorded music from decorated wagons and floats. 

Each year celebrities are tapped to march as King Neptune and Queen Mermaid. This year writer Neil Gaiman and musician Amanda Palmer (along with their young son) were the anointed twosome. And each year the parade is organized by the non-profit group Coney Island USA, founded by Dick Zigun, who also marches and bangs on a drum.

Some of the more remarkable participants included a cartoony Donald Trump, wearing an ankle shackle and chains while being lead around by a mermaid; people carrying signs with messages about water pollution and other environmental issues; and a man in a bizarre silver robot outfit.

Others wore more traditional mermaid costumes, pirate outfits, gothic-styled swimwear and so on. Some female marchers went topless, painting their breasts in lieu of bikini tops, and men did, too. Although many marchers were in their 20s and 30s, children and seniors also participated. Most marchers walked but some roller bladed or roller skated, biked and rode on floats.

I have attended the parade several times, and I worked as a volunteer on two parades in the 1980s (one of my jobs was to direct police officers and give them security assignments). The Mermaid Parade has become one of the most notable Coney events of the year, along with the New Year's Day Polar Bear swim, the Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest on July 4th, the Sand Castle contest and other numerous fun days.

The 2018 parade was a worthy addition to the canon of fun.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 17, 2018 21:43

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A sea of colorful costumes filled Coney Island Saturday for the 34th annual Mermaid Parade.

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