BY VICTOR PORCELLI
Coney Island is expecting over 800,000 scantily-clad, semi-aquatic merpeople to participate in or witness the 37th Mermaid Day Parade on Saturday, June 22.
The annual parade is a celebration of the art community and goes through Coney Island’s amusement district. Beginning at 1 p.m., participants will march along Surf Avenue, starting on West 21st Street, and head to West 10th Street.
From there, it will head to the Boardwalk and finally end at Steeplechase Plaza. This year’s parade will feature Arlo and Nora Guthrie, the children of folk singer-songwriter and icon Woody Guthrie, as King Neptune and Queen Mermaid. The brother and sister duo will be the first king and queen to have grown up on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, according to the parade’s founder, Dick Zigun.
Zigun recalled that he had founded both the parade and Coney Island USA in the early 1980s as a way to honor the art community, of which he is a part of. Trained in theatre, every year Zigun puts on a one-piece wool bathing suit, a silk tophat and sunglasses to dress up as the “permanently unelected mayor” of Coney Island.
For Nora Guthrie, the opportunity to lead the parade connects past and present. “I was never a prom queen, so this is my time,” she told Brooklyn Reporter. “On a serious note, I love the fact that we’re representing a great legacy in my father and my mother. And so, when I’m there, that’s what I’ll be thinking about.”
Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of Alliance for Coney Island — a nonprofit dedicated to helping local businesses which partners with Coney Island USA to market the event — said that having the Guthries as king and queen highlights Coney Island’s vibrant past.
“That really touches on the history of Coney Island,” Silversmith told Brooklyn Reporter. “It acknowledges a major part of music history with Woody Guthrie.”
The alliance’s float will lead the parade, which also has antique cars as part of its procession. Presenters of the parade include Coney Island USA, Coney Island Brewery, Spectrum News NY1 and the TV series about mermaids, “Siren.”
When describing the parade, which often features hand-made costumes and topless men and women, Zigun said “it’s a bit wacky, it’s a bit arty, there’s a bit of nudity in it — it’s very New York City.”