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Fish and chicks! Coney’s mermaid parade makes a splash

Mermaid queen: Rocker Deborah Harry helmed the 35th Annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island on June 17 and capped the raunchy festivities by cutting through ribbons representing each of the four seasons on her way to the beach.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Talk about wet ’n’ wild!

Shimmering sea creatures shimmied along Surf Avenue for the 35th-annual Mermaid Parade on June 17. More than 3,000 sirens, serpents, and all manner of merfolk flooded Coney for the raunchy procession, and they were in their element when a downpour tried to dampen their spirits, said one scally parade-goer.

“No amount of rain can drown us out — we’re merfolk, baby,” said “Neptune’s long-lost cousin” (also know as Jake Klepp from Williamsburg), who was draped in fishnets, seaweed, and sparkles. “This is what we live for.”

The deluge was a fitting touch for the nautical cast of characters, said the parade’s founder.

“In the photographs there’s nothing better than a wet mermaid,” said sideshow impresario Dick Zigun. “I am amazed at how seriously people take the parade that despite a torrential downpour we put on a wonderful parade. I’m in awe of that.”

Merry merfolk swam to Coney Island from up and down the coast and even across the ocean to make it to the scantily clad march. Mat “Seal Boy” Fraser — a British actor best known for his role in “American Horror Story” but who did a stint at Coney’s sideshow — came from across the Pond for the parade. Other esteems guests included mini-mermaid Jane Hash, who designs fashions for those with atypical body types, and burlesque superstar Mr. Gorgeous.

About 25 floats cruised through the People’s Playground, instead of the typical 40, and there were about 1,000 fewer revelers than last year, but plenty of diehard fans of the ’70s rock band Blondie came out in force for this year’s honorary queen and king of the sea — iconic vocalist Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein.

“I came all the way out from Montauk for this. She was idol growing up,” said Stephanie Hardy, who drove nearly three hours from the tip of Long Island to Coney just for a glimpse at the rocker duo. “I’ve never been to the mermaid parade, so I thought, ‘What better time to come than when my favorite rock stars will be there?’”

The fate of the Mermaid Parade was teetering on the edge of feasibility as the cash-strapped arts group behind the bash, Coney Island USA, struggled this year with nearly empty coffers.

Organizers launched an online “Feed the Mermaid” campaign that raised $36,477 thanks to more than 300 donors and two hefty checks — one from investor Meyer Orbach of the Orbach Group for a whopping $20,000 and $5,000 from the Coney Island Brewing Company. As a result of the outpouring of generosity this is one of the few times the parade has broken even, according to Zigun.

“For one of the first times, the parade probably broke even, and there will be many more mermaid parades to come,” said Zigun. “I was surprised by all the support. It’s like the Mermaid Parade is on the verge of being some cult religion, which I’m both excited by and a little scared of.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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