Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade canceled

mermaid parade
Author Neil Gaiman serves as King Neptune for the 2018 Mermaid Parade.
File photo

Brooklynites will have to return their decadent sea creature-themed costumes to the closet once more, as Coney Island’s famed Mermaid Parade will be postponed another year.

“It is with sadness that we announce the cancellation of the 2021 Mermaid Parade,” the organizing group, Coney Island USA, posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning.  “When we set the September date, we hoped that the Parade, the largest art parade in the nation and a point of civic pride for Coney Island, would represent a return to normalcy. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not finished with us quite yet.”

Coney Island USA elected to postpone the 39th annual Mermaid Parade, the country’s largest art parade, which doubled as a celebration of the wonderfully wacky spirit of the peninsula, as thousands of parade-goers from across the city and beyond could easily spread the coronavirus, the post said. 

“The Parade draws hundreds of thousands to Coney Island every year, including large numbers of children, many crowding onto mass transit for the ride out to Stillwell Avenue,” they wrote. “It is the centerpiece of the CIUSA calendar, and we are very proud of the positive impact that the Parade has on our Coney Island community. However, the risks to our sponsors, patrons, community, and our wonderful staff — who have risen to every challenge — were too much to bear.”

This year, the parade was planned for Sept. 12, a pivot from it traditionally serving as the kickoff to the summer season, as the pandemic left organizers uncertain whether they could move forward — until, in June, they officially announced the parade would happen after Coney Island USA head Dick Zigun told Brooklyn Paper in April that an in-person event was possible. 

While the Mermaid Parade was planned to instead close out the summer lifeguard season, many of the annual traditions were set to return — like the costume contest presided over by an “inebriated, inept, and incompetent” panel of judges. 

Other fan favorites would have seen a comeback, like “Queen Mermaid” and “King Neptune” riding on their antique wicker Boardwalk Rolling Chair, which Coney Island USA says dates back to 1923.  

The cancellation comes as the city sees a third wave of the coronavirus credited to the spread of the Delta variant that has especially hit areas recording low vaccination rates with city data showing Coney Island’s 11224 zip code as a typical leader in seven-day infection rates. 

Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement on Aug. 4 that the Health Department would discontinue sharing seven-day infection rates by zip code because of a lack of accurate data, the city is still sharing data on the percent of a zip code’s population who have tested positive over seven days. 

Between Aug. 8 and Aug. 14, the 11224 zip code has fallen to the middle of the list, recording 4.97 percent of its tested population were positive for coronavirus, while Breezy Point in Queens took the lead last week with 15.53 percent of its population’s tests coming back positive. 

Coney Island USA’a announcement follows a similar postponement from a fellow neighborhood group, the Alliance for Coney Island, who announced they are canceling this year’s Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest last week. 

It is unclear whether there will be a virtual celebration in lieu of the in-person parade as there was in 2020, but their announcement stated plans for a full return in 2022. 

“We are all disappointed and apologize to those of you who, like us, were looking forward to this annual celebration of life, creativity, and togetherness, post-2020,” Coney Island USA posted. “Please be assured that the Mermaid Parade will return in 2022, better than ever!”