Coney Island Mermaid Parade
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, June 21, regardless of the weather. The tradition began in 1983, when the first event of this kind was conceptualized and organized by Dick Zigun, who is sometimes dubbed the "Mayor of Coney Island", and who was the founder of the non-profit arts group Coney Island USA. The last nine parades (up to 2015) were held on June 21, 2008; June 20, 2009; June 19, 2010; June 18, 2011; June 23, 2012; June 22, 2013; June 21, 2014; June 20, 2015. The 2016 parade is to be held on Saturday June 18, starting at 1 pm.
The parade of June 22, 2013 was almost canceled due to resources being consumed by the recovery from Hurricane Sandy; it was rescued from a shortfall of funding by launching a successful Kickstarter $100,000 campaign raising over $117,000.
The parade pays homage to the Coney Island Mardi Gras parades of the early 20th century. During this era, Coney Island was the primary amusement park destination for those in the New York area. Like the much larger annual Village Halloween Parade, the Mermaid Parade evokes the artistic spirit of Mardi Gras.
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 known for marine costumes, occasional partial nudity, as well as more family oriented fare. 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.
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. In 2013, Carole Radziwill from The Real Housewives of New York City was titled the queen.
The organizers of the parade claim to encourage bribery, so that participants have a better chance to win the various costume contests, which are also part of the day's entertainment. The Coney Island Mermaid Parade inspired the Zeemeerminnenparade in The Hague, the Netherlands to organize a similar annual Mermaid Parade starting in 2010.
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Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island
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- Coney Island USA. "Save the Coney Island Mermaid from Extinction!". Kick Starter.
- it is legal in New York State for women to be topless in public
- "Photos: 2010 Mermaid Parade (NSFW)". Time Out New York. June 21, 2010.
- "Ep 5: Everybody Thinks We're Drag Queens". Bravo. NBCUniversal. April 6, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2016.