Call it the People’s Parade Ground!
Sea creatures, fishy floats, and marching bands sailed down Surf Avenue last Saturday for the 37th annual Mermaid Parade, where costumed revelers wowed spectators with their creative performances and outlandish getups.
“The art was awesome. My friends haven’t stopped talking about it all weekend,” said Patty Latafa, a Park Slope resident and first-time parade goer who rode in a military-style Jeep with five mermaid friends during the event on June 22.
The parade kicked off with the crowning of Arlo and Nora Guthrie — children of the famed folk musician Woody Guthrie — as the parade’s King and Queen. Prior to the event, the siblings participated in a street renaming on Mermaid Avenue in honor of the American music icon, who lived on Mermaid Avenue between West 35th and West 36th streets for seven years.
Following the mer-monarchs’ coronation, where Nora Guthrie declared “this sand is your sand,” 30 antique cars, 20 motorized floats, and 12 marching bands flooded Surf Avenue. Behind them strutted a tidal wave of mermaids and monsters from West 21st Street to West 10th and down the Coney Island boardwalk.
“It’s such a fun experience. Everyone was so creative” said Deborah Spencer, who marched in the parade as a purple cry baby. Dick Zigun, the founder of the parade and self-proclaimed unofficial mayor of Coney Island, estimated that 3,000 mer-creatures marched, and that the event drew 750,000 people total.
And this year, Cupid hitched a ride with Neptune for the pelagic-themed parade, where the procession’s judges spied not one, not two, but three proposals from their stand near MCU Park. Meanwhile, Zigun officiated a motorized wedding party, pronouncing the bride and groom “man and wife” from the judges’ stand as they kissed on the flatbed of a passing truck.
“Next year I might just scrap the parade and start hosting weddings,” said Zigun, who runs Coney Island USA, a nonprofit that produces the Mermaid Parade every year.
As the parade wound down, spectators headed to a ribbon-cutting on Coney Island Beach, where the mood went from silly to spiritual. Attendees cut four ribbons, one for each season, and asked the ocean’s spirits for sunny weather and safe swimming for the summer, throwing fruit offerings into the sea. This year, a Native American shaman helped lead the ritual.
“My favorite thing is the ribbon cutting,” said Zigun.