The Mermaid Parade: Creepy but Inspiring
A Summer Extravaganza at Coney Island
Coney Island has always been known to accept the 'freak' in all of us. And every summer, they keep with tradition, holding the Mardi Gras-esque Mermaid Parade. To celebrate the arrival of summer in June, thousands march on Surf Avenue, ironically paying homage to mermaids, mythical creatures that don't even have legs.
The event has attracted as many as 800,000 participants and spectators, running for over 34 years.
It's Largest Parade in the United States... that doesn't Support any Ethnic, National, or Cultural Cause
Most people assume the parade is named for the Mermaid Ave and Neptune Ave near the parade route. However, the mermaid theme simply came about because Coney Island was not allowed to hold a Fourth of July parade. They needed a new theme and they went...beachy.
The founder of the parade claims that the Mermaid Parade is actually a prelude to a West African ceremony for the summer solstice because drummers leading the march carry baskets of fruit to be offered to the water gods. But we call baloney on that one.
A celebration of 'creative individuality,' some free spirited mermaids prefer to attend as nature made them. Nudity is not encouraged at the Mermaid Parade, which once was a big family affair. However, several residents wish the parade were more of a family affair, a time for little girls to celebrate one of our mythical traditions.
Each year, a King and Queen Neptune are elected to preside over the parade like King Triton from the Little Mermaid. But, the parade organizers were caught for accepting cash bribes, alcohol, and food. Want a trophy for your costume? Pay off the judges.
One has to wonder how much it costs to win Mermaid of the Year.
"Our ideal judges are inebriated, inept and corrupt," Zigun, the founder of the parade, added. "That's the way we like it."
Strangely, even though the parade is an 'art' parade, spectators are not allowed to take pictures of the participants. A $21 fine is given to anyone who sneaks a shot. Photos can only be taken in a designated area where the mermaids volunteer to be models.
Opening the Sea
In the closing ceremony, which most of the spectators do not attend, King and Queen Neptune 'open the sea' for the summer. Four ribbons are cut to represent the four seasons, an Zigun holds up the key to Coney Island.