Mermaid Parade organizers launch face mask design contest

The hosts of the Mermaid Parade launched a face mask design contest that honors the most creative, handmade masks.
Courtesy of Mark Alhadeff (left) / Esti Grifel (right)

Call it a maskerpiece!

The organizers behind Coney Island’s iconic Mermaid Parade are bringing their love for quirkiness and creativity to a new competition: an online face mask design contest. The “Put on a Funny Face Mask Contest” celebrates unique masks while honoring mask makers who have provided the world with needed protection throughout the COVID-19 crisis, said its creator. 

“We want to take advantage of this moment of an incredible explosion from the creative community,” said Mark Alhadeff, a board member of the non-profit arts organization Coney Island USA, which hosts the recently-canceled Mermaid Parade.  

The virtual contest, which began accepting submissions on April 24, asks participants to submit photos of their handmade creations, which will be judged by a panel of between 20 and 50 celebrity judges — including many former Kings and Queens of the Mermaid Parade — according to six categories:

  • Best overall mask
  • Best Coney Island-themed mask
  • Best Mermaid/Neptune mask (Sea creatures)
  • Best formal mask
  • Best historical mask
  • Best kids’ mask: (A mask for a kid, or a mask that makes you a kid. You decide!)

Spectrum News NY1, which is sponsoring the event, will choose the best mask that celebrates New York City for the “One New York Mask” category. The competition will also feature the “People’s Choice” award for the mask that garners the most votes from the public, and the “Judges’ Choice” mask chosen by the “inebriated and corrupt” hosts of the event.

Entries must be submitted by May 24, and the winners will be announced around June 1, Alhadeff said. Coney Island USA plans to broadcast the ceremony and award non-cash prizes to the winners, but has not yet nailed down its exact procedure. 

Contrary to the event’s name, the masks don’t need to be funny or provide adequate protection in order to win, said Alhadeff, a longtime judge for the Mermaid Parade. 

“It’s all kinds of face masks, and not just funny face masks,” he said. “It’s really about mask aesthetic.”

Alhadeff said he was inspired to launch the contest by his wife, who has made more than 200 masks with her sewing machine since the start of the outbreak.

“Sherry Davis, she was the total inspiration for it,” he said. “One person, 200 masks. They’re not simple masks, they’re fitted in four different sizes with filter inserts.”

face mask design contest
Sherry Davis has sewn hundreds of face masks since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

To honor mask makers, the competition will include a “Community Service” award for a mask maker or organization that has best served the Coney Island community, and the “Best Mask Wearing Encouragement Meme” for the best online message that encourages mask-wearing.

The event’s kickoff comes less than one week after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Mermaid Parade and all other June events are indefinitely postponed to prevent the spread of the virus. Dick Zigun, the founder of the event and president of Coney Island USA, said he hopes to host the 38th annual parade either later this year or over the internet. 

“There will be some version of the Mermaid Parade, ideally a real parade in the street later this summer. If not, then maybe a virtual online parade,” he told Brooklyn Paper last week.