Sea-dwelling creatures from southern Brooklyn are rejoicing, as Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade is returning for its annual summer kick-off this year — giving Brooklynites a chance to party with a classic signature celebration of ancient mythology and creatures from under the sea
“We are really looking forward to bringing back all the things that made it New York’s most beloved parade,” said Adam Rinn, executive director of Coney Island USA.
The 40th Annual Mermaid Parade is planned for Saturday, June 18 (after a two-year hiatus due to none other than the ongoing coronavirus pandemic) in mostly its traditional fashion — bringing thousands of participants dressed up from under the sea and hundreds of themed floats cruising through the seaside neighborhood— albeit in compliance with the current Covid protocols at that time.
“We will certainly abide by any Covid guidelines that the city puts out, the most important thing is really the safety of our participants and our viewers,” Rinn said.
Coney Island USA, the neighborhood’s eponymous public arts organization, has been hosting the yearly street festival since 1983 with three goals in mind, according to its press release — to give meaning behind the street names Mermaid and Neptune in Coney Island, to create “self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as ‘entertainment,’” and provide an opportunity for “artistic New Yorkers [to] find self expression in public.”
Each year, the organization crowns a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid, and have on occasion bestowed the role to celebrities in previous years — such as Queen Latifah, Neil Gaiman and David Byrne. Coney Island USA did not yet announce who will play the characters for this year’s event, but Rinn said the roles will likely be announced at the organization’s spring gala on March 26.
While each year the theme of the parade is centered around the underwater world, Rinn said the creativity and the underlying themes in the participants’ handmade costumes sets each year’s event apart from previous years.
“It’s really the creativity of the public, the marchers, the participants that bring that really cutting-edge creativity and artfulness and show it to the streets,” he said. “While each year, we don’t particularly theme the parade, you will always tend to see themes around and in the parade.”
Rinn said he expects to see the “evil virus” depicted in a few costumes at this year’s events.
“I would venture to guess that the evil virus may be making more than one appearance,” he told Brooklyn Paper.
The parade down Surf Avenue, the neighborhood’s main drag, launches at W. 21st Street and continues to W.10th Street, where paraders and push-pull floats will turn towards the boardwalk — motorized floats will continue down Surf Avenue to exit the parade — and will parade on the boardwalk before disbanding at Steeplechase Park.
But there is not only a parade at the Mermaid Parade — this is Coney Island, guys — there is also a costume contest with three equally ridiculous judges and a Beach Ceremony, which is the traditional opening of the ocean for the summer swimming season.
This will potentially be the first time the annual event will be held in-person in two years.
Last year, the parade was planned to end the summer swimming season in September, as the organization did not have enough time to plan a June event while awaiting whether Covid protocols would allow for their large-scale street festival but eventually canceled it as the rise of the Delta variant threatened the Five Boroughs.
The parade went virtual in 2020, as nearly all events were canceled, as the city and most of the world faced shutdowns of all public activities.
Coney Island USA recently fired its founder and artistic director Dick Zigun, known as the unofficial mayor of Coney Island, claiming it was the result of a years-long issue on who will succeed him when he retires.
The street festival still awaits a street closure license, which goes before the local community board — in this case Community Board 13 — for a recommendation to approve or deny the application. The parade was set to go before Community Board 13’s street closure committee on Feb. 8, but the meeting was canceled and is planned to be rescheduled for the beginning of March.