Coney Island Mermaid Parade turns 40, returns after 2-year hiatus

June 21, 2022 Beth Eisgrau-Heller
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Scantily clad mermaids, mermen, pirates, mythical beings and sea creatures of all ages, shapes and sizes gathered to celebrate the return of the beloved Coney Island Mermaid Parade on Saturday.

The parade marked its milestone 40th birthday after Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the event the past two years. It is synonymous with creativity, individuality, diversity and the salty, honky-tonk ethos of “The People’s Playground.”

This year, the honor of Queen Mermaid and King Neptune was bestowed upon singer-songwriter and actor Mx. Justin Vivian Bond and Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, former commissioner at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The parade’s parent non-profit organization, Coney Island USA, was established in 1980. Its mission is to protect and preserve the history of the neighborhood’s amusements and unique artforms. The group produces numerous signature events, including The Coney Island Circus Sideshow and Burlesque at the Beach and operates the Coney Island Museum, Sideshow by the Seashore and the Shooting Gallery/Arts Annex.

A Mermaid darted to the sidelines to take a selfie with a friend she spotted in the crowd.
Daniella Carter of Queens, NY let it all hang out. She adorned herself with crystals placed strategically on her body. This is her first time attending the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and one of many women who choose to go topless.
A spectator standing in front of the iconic Nathan’s is aptly dressed as a member of the kitchy nerd-rock band, The Aquabats.
Ahoy there matey, thar goes a Mermaid! The float was constructed “pirate ship” built atop a vintage tractor.
Left, a woman is dressed like the “Notorious RBG” incarnation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a Feminist and staunchly Pro-Choice. Right, her counterpart is wrapped in orange bubble rap, a visual pun on roe, or fish eggs, invoking “Roe v. Wade.”
Kostume Kult, a costume art, theme event and street-theater club performs a piece they called “Octopussy’s Garden.”
An exuberant performer with the East Village Marching Band impressed the judges with her hula hooping skills.
Nichole Mallette, a former essential worker for the NY Blood Center, is pushed in a wheelchair by her friend, Tokaori. Nichole is likely permanently confined to a wheelchair due to long-haul Covid. This is her fourth Mermaid Parade but her first after becoming disabled. Coney Island USA was forced to cancel the 2020 and 2021 Mermaid Parades during the pandemic.
Judges, lined up like baby birds begging for a worm, wait with anticipation and excitement for “ bribes” from the performers. Costumed parade participants butter up the the judges with trinkets, sweets or even alcoholic drinks in hopes of gaining their votes in the events’ contests.
Captain Hook gets chased by their nemesis, Tik-Tok the Crocodile. The two are part of a group costumed entirely as Disney characters.
Two festive spectators vie for the attention of performers throwing Mardi Gras-style bead necklaces.
Dozens of percussionists perform in unison with Fogo Azul. The group, founded in 2016, is an all-women Brazilian Samba marching band drum line who welcomes women, whether Trans, Non-Binary or gender non-conforming.
A reveler shows off her sparkling, shell-encrusted Mermaid costume complete with a large, red foil “coral” that fanned out behind her.
Three women have vastly different takes on what a Mermaid means to them. Left: An ominous, neon Mermaid with penetrating yellow eyes. Center: A Great Gatsby era Mermaid. Right: A Goth-inspired Mermaid.
Don’t let their smiles deceive you, these sea creatures bite!
The “Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island,” Dick Zugin marches in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade despite being ousted as Creative Director of Coney Island USA, the arts-organization he helped co-found in 1980. His successor is sword swallower, Adam Rinn.
Coney Island Brewing Company is one of many prominent Parade sponsors. Here, brewery employees throw branded beer cozies at the crowd of spectators.
Caitlyn, a percussionist, hyped up the crowd as she marched with the L Train Brass Band. The group’s banner read, “Starfish Enterprise, To boldly go where no Mermaid has gone before.”
A classic Lincoln joins the procession at the beginning of 2022 Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
A spectator shows support for Dick Zigun a Co-Founder of Coney Island USA and “Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island.” Zigun was ousted as Creative Director in December 2021 but has since reached a settlement in the dispute over his retirement and succession, and the intellectual property rights to stage the parade.
An enterprising man sells Gay Pride flags at the Stillwell Avenue subway station.

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