Mermaid Parade planned to be held in-person later this year

mermaid parade
The Mermaid Parade is being planned for later this summer, the event’s organizer said.
Photo by Erica Price

Sea-faring creatures and mythical sirens will most likely march through the People’s Playground again this year for the 39th annual Mermaid Parade, which organizers hope to host in the late summer or early fall, according to the man behind the event.

“It looks like we are going to do a real parade this year,” the founder of the arts non-profit Coney Island USA, Dick Zigun, told Brooklyn Paper. 

The return of the popular arts festival, which typically draws north of 600,000 people, comes one year after the parade was forced to go virtual because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Thanks to an increasing number of Brooklynites who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine, Zigun is confident that the event can return to Surf Avenue — although perhaps on a smaller scale.

“To be honest, we don’t need to match our all-time record,” said Zigun, who started the arts parade in 1983. “The past couple of years, if it doesn’t rain, we’ve been averaging 800,000 people. In my opinion, a teeny parade of 400,000 people would be ideal.” 

The parade will most likely maintain all of its classic features — such as its costume contest and its “inebriated, inept, and incompetent” judge’s panel — but Zigun says that the organization may not advertise it as heavily in order to reduce attendance.

But ultimately, the parade’s fate hinges on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to pay attention to what everyone is paying attention to, which is the infection rates going down and vaccination rates going up,” Zigun said. “We aren’t going to hold it on our traditional date of June 19th. That would be irresponsible; it would be a super-spreader event.” 

Zigun is hoping to hold the event sometime in early September before Labor Day, but the date depends on when other major parades get scheduled. Because the NYPD has limited safety infrastructure and oversight capacity, the Mermaid Parade can’t happen too close to the West Indian Day Parade, which is held on Labor Day, he explained.

Zigun said hopes to make a formal announcement about this year’s parade during the organization’s April 29th online benefit, which is in conjunction with musician Jesse Malin and the Manhattan venue the Bowery Electric.

News of the Mermaid Parade comes nearly one week after the reopening of the Coney Island amusement parks following an 18-month shutdown. The reopening made local mavens and politicians rejoice, not only because of the parks allow locals to have fun again, but because they help reboot the peninsula’s local economy.

An in-person Mermaid Parade would have a similar effect, Zigun said. 

“I’m sure, rain or shine, even late in the season, we’ll have a great turnout … which is an economic shot in the arm for our community,” he said.