Friday, June 17, 2011

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Every year, people from all around the world dress up in mermaid costumes and stride around Coney Island. And it's starting this weekend, too! I've always wanted to go to Coney Island during this time, and someday I might. Paying homage to this annual event, here's a history of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade! Source is Wikipedia (hey, it's reliable sometimes!)

The tradition of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade began in 1983 when the concept was established and organized by Dick Zigun, the founder of the non-profit arts group Coney Island USA. The Mermaid Parade is held in celebration of the beginning of the summer season, and so it traditionally takes place on the Saturday closest to the calendar start of summer, regardless of the weather. The event sometimes attracts a couple of 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 well-known for extraordinary marine costumes, and for the occasional partial nudity. (This is not as surprising as it may sound, because it is legal in New York State for women to be topless in public, except as part of a business venture.) The parade is however very much a family event; it is quite common for at least one little girl's birthday party to march as part of the parade. 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, and the audience is festive and appreciative.
Each year the Mermaid Parade features a merman and mermaid King and Queen. In 2005 the King was David Johansen (Buster Poindexter) and the Queen was Karmen Guy (Mad Juana). In other years, David Byrne, Queen Latifah, Adam Savage, Harvey Keitel, and Moby have filled the royal seats. In the 2010 parade, the King was Lou Reed and the Queen Laurie Anderson.

Coney Island and mermaids themselves are the subject of Zoraida Cordova's upcoming debut novel, The Vicious Deep, in which the mermaids return to Coney Island to search for their new king.

Sounds great, huh? I'd love to go someday and see all the mermaids and sea creatures parading down the streets. Will any of you be attending the parade?

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