Mermaids and mermen and Trump, oh my!
Over 3,000 attendees hit the pavement on Saturday, June 24 to revel in the 35th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Despite some wet weather, sea-clad marchers and spectators alike came out to celebrate one of the neighborhood’s most unique traditions, put on each year by Coney Island USA. This year’s lineup of mermaid and mermen wow-ed the crowds with their best “under the sea” attire — a number of them putting their own modern spins on their digs. From silver sisters to a gaggle of Spidermen and (more than a few) takes on President Donald Trump, there was certainly no shortage of creativity at this year’s cavalcade.
Furthermore, this year’s procession was formally reigned over by Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, who served as the parade’s Queen Mermaid and King Neptune.
“We are in [rock and roll] heaven,” said Coney Island USA founder and self-proclaimed Mayor of Coney Island Dick Zigun in early May when the dynamic duo’s participation in this year’s parade was first announced. “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 were 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 — began at the corner of West 21st Street and Surf Avenue. From there, it proceeded east on Surf Avenue to West 10th Street, where it turned south to the Boardwalk and then north back to Steeplechase Plaza, where it ended 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.