The tide is high and the stage has been set for this year’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
With Coney Island USA’s 35th Annual Mermaid Parade set to kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, the organization on Tuesday, May 2 announced that this year’s Queen Mermaid and King Neptune will be none other than Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of rock band Blondie.
“We are in [rock and roll] heaven,” said Coney Island USA founder and self-proclaimed Mayor of Coney Island Dick Zigun following the announcement. “Our [Blondie] King Neptune and Queen Mermaid represent authentic [New York City] arts from East Village CBGB punk, to current cutting edge Coney Island.”
In keeping with tradition, Harry and Stein will be wheeled through the parade in an antique wicker Boardwalk Rolling Chair that dates back to 1923. The duo, known best for founding the famous rock band in 1974, were pioneers in the early American new wave and punk scenes of that decade and beyond.
Also famous for its mold-breaking, the quirky parade — lauded annually for its unique and artistic celebration and appreciation of ancient mythology — will start at the corner of West 21st Street and Surf Avenue. From there, it will proceed east on Surf Avenue to West 10th Street, where it will turn south to the Boardwalk and then north back to Steeplechase Plaza, where it will end with Zigun leading the King and Queen through the MCU Park parking lot and to the beach for the official opening of the ocean for the summer swimming season.
Dating back to 1983, the “honky-tonk seaside ritual,” as Zigun puts it, routinely attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the amusement district and features marching bands, drill teams, floats, antique cars and some 1,500 participants dressed in hand-made costume of mermaids, sea creatures, amusement rides and Neptunes.
Coney Island USA — the parade’s parent organization which also produces the Coney Island Circus Sideshow — has often regarded the event as an artist-inspired affair assembled with the goal of fostering artists’ self-expression, bringing mythology to life for Coney Island locals, and creating self-esteem in a district “often disregarded as ‘entertainment.’”
It is the largest art parade in the nation and the largest event of the year in Coney Island, according to its organizers, and is meant to pay homage to Coney Island’s forgotten Mardi Gras, which ran from 1903 to 1954.
Past Kings and Queens have included superstar Queen Latifah in 1999, singer, songwriter and overall creator Moby in 2004, and even Mayor Bill de Blasio’s two children, Dante and Chiara, in 2014, among many others.
The announcement of Harry’s and Stein’s selection comes just a few days before the release of Blondie’s 11th studio album, Pollinator, available Friday, May 5.
Fans of the Mermaid Parade can lend their support via a new text fundraising campaign by texting the word “mermaid” to 71777, or by going to www.coneyisland.com/feed. To register for this year’s parade or for more information, visit www.coneyisland.com.