Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade set to return Sept. 12

mermaid parade
Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade is a site for quirky, creative costumes.
Photo by Erica Price

Coney Island’s famed Mermaid Parade will return for its 39th rendition on Sunday, Sept. 12, organizers announced Thursday.

News of the nautical arts festival’s revival comes after organizers told Brooklyn Paper in April that there would likely be an in-person event this year after bringing the event online in 2020, though the parade would be held later in the year to close out the summer, instead of serving its usual kickoff in June.

Despite the different date, most of the Mermaid Parade’s old traditions will remain — albeit with some social distancing.  Onlookers can still expect to see King Neptune and Queen Mermaid, and Dick Zigun, founder of the arts non-profit Coney Island USA, previously told Brooklyn Paper they hope to again host the parade’s popular costume contest, to be ruled over by its “inebriated, inept, and incompetent” panel of judges.

This year’s King Neptune and Queen Mermaid will be Emmy Award-winning director Tony Gerber and playwright Lynn Nottage, and the pair will roll through the parade on an antique wicker Boardwalk Rolling Chair that Coney Island USA says dates back to 1923.

Her Majesty: Singer Amanda Palmer leads the day as 2018 Queen of the Mermaid Parade.Photo by Bret Lehne

The parade will start around 1 pm at W. 21st Street and Surf Avenue and continue east to W. 10th street, where it will turn south toward the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. Marchers and push-pull floats will then turn west on the boardwalk and heard towards W. 17th Street and later disband at Steeplechase Plaza. Cars and motorized floats in the parade separate from marchers before they turn onto W. 17th Street and instead continue on Surf Avenue. 

Immediately after the parade at 4 pm, Zigun will lead the King and Queen procession from Steeplechase Plaza through the Maimonides Park parking lot for a ceremony on Coney Island Beach that will officially close the summer lifeguard season.

The parade’s date, which Zigun said in April hinged on the city’s recovery from the pandemic, comes just after New York State reached a 70 percent first dose vaccination rate on June 14, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lift nearly all COVID-related restrictions across the state. 

Coney Island’s namesake nonprofit arts organization launched the beloved Mermaid Parade in 1983 as an ode to the neighborhood’s own Mardi Gras celebration, which was held from 1903 to 1954, and to showcase the wacky and weird spirit of the area. The annual event promotes Coney Island’s entertainment industry while celebrating the mythology behind Mermaid and Neptune avenues — all while raising awareness of an often-forgotten district in New York City, according to organizers.

This summer also marks the return of the neighborhood’s treasured amusement parks, which were forced to remain closed throughout the 2020 summer season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the premiere of a brand new rollercoaster, The Phoenix, that will soon join the 101-year-old Wonder Wheel at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.