The march to sea! Your guide to this year’s Mermaid Parade

The march to sea! Your guide to this year’s Mermaid Parade
Norman Blake

The ‘maids are back in Brooklyn!

Mermaid encounters may be rare elsewhere, but in Kings County they are an annual event! Fabulous sea creatures and Poseidon worshippers will take over Coney Island this Saturday for the 37th Annual Mermaid Parade, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the People’s Playground every summer, according to the parade’s founder.

“It’s the biggest day of the year in Coney Island,” said Dick Zigun, who also founded the arts group Coney Island USA. The “unelected mayor of Coney Island” has donned a vintage bathing suit and top hat to leads the costumed marchers every year since he launched the unique event in 1980. The event was designed to showcase the uniquely colorful Coney Island spirit, he said.

“When I moved to Coney Island, it was an eclectic, bohemian, weirdo neighborhood full of eccentric people,” he recalled. “In a big way, I wanted to make a statement about what an art scene in Coney Island would look like. The parade was an immediate hit and it’s gotten bigger and bigger.”

Highlights over the years have included marching bands with hundreds of people in uniform; a “cork creature” covered with corks from champagne bottles, riding on a unicycle, people dressed as lobsters, and others as cans of tuna, Zigun remembered.

“Someone spent thousands towing a yacht on a trailer, driving down Surf; there was an elephant from Ringling Bros Circus,” he added. “You never know what you’re gonna see.”

The procession this year will include antique cars, human-powered and motorized floats, scantily clad aquatic partiers, marching bands, and this year’s King Neptune and Queen Mermaid: folk performer Arlo Guthrie and his sister, archivist Nora Guthrie, who both grew up in Coney Island.

The parade will kick off at 1 p.m. at Surf Avenue and W. 21st Street; proceeds down Surf Avenue to West 10th Street; turns and marches towards the Boardwalk, then proceeds along the Boardwalk to its end point at Steeplechase Plaza, near the parachute drop

The best place to watch the parade is from the Judge Viewing Stand at the start of the parade, but those tickets have already sold out. A close second might be the second-floor patio of the Surf Avenue Applebee’s, which looks over the parade route. For $40 per person (standing room only) you get bar snacks and two drinks; $20 for kids 12 or younger. Call (718) 372–0070 to see if spots are still available.

For those watching from ground level; Zigun advises staying away from the most crowded area, between Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters and Luna Park; the sidewalk in front of MCU Park offers a good view; and from there you can visit parade sponsor Coney Island Brewery for refreshments.

The parade lasts for about three hours, so if you might want to leave early, be sure to stay on the side of Surf Avenue away from the beach, since crossing will be difficult.

After the parade, Zigun will lead the King and Queen in a procession to the beach, for a Beach Ceremony opening the ocean for the summer swimming season. An after-party withe live bands and burlesque performances will follow on the rooftop bar of Kitchen 21 nearby.

Mermaid Parade (on Surf Avenue from W. 21st Street to W. 10th Street in Coney Island, www.mermaidparade.com). June 22 at 1 p.m. Free.

Mermaid Parade After-Party at Kitchen 21 (W. 21st Street at the Boardwalk in Coney Island). June 22; 5–11 p.m. $25.