Friday is the first official day of summer, the bonafide best season to be in New York City. The options are limitless and also truly overwhelming. One of my crown jewel summer activities is the Mermaid Parade, the nation’s largest art parade, now in its 31st year. On the first Saturday of the summer, Coney Island becomes an extravaganza of mermaid-themed creativity and artistic revelry.
The robust local and national arts community saved this year’s parade via a Kickstarter campaign only less than a month ago. Coney Island USA, the organization that produces the event, was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. They run a historic museum and theater, and home to many local artists especially in burlesque, that was seriously damaged by the storm. The space sources much of the revenue needed to pay for security, event management and other needs so that the Mermaid Parade goes off safely and smoothly. The loss from the theater being closed post-Sandy, along with the rising costs of putting on a growing free parade almost stopped this year from happening.
According to Coney Island USA, “The Mermaid Parade specifically was founded in 1983 with 3 goals: it brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune ; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public.”
Though there will be some nudity (i.e. body-painted women in pasties), there is a family friendly section with moderate noise and no nudity. However if you wanna walk around (mostly) naked in the sun for an afternoon, you’ll feel a joyous spirit where people respectfully appreciate different bodies and artistic representations. I’ve walked in the parade for the last 2 years with my burlesque troupe, Brown Girls Burlesque, and it has been a celebratory safe space for women, queer and trans people, and anyone with an ounce of freak in them. The NYPD actually calls it “no crime day” in Coney Island. (!!!)
If you want to be a part of this New York institution, registration is still open. Or you can lineup along Surf Ave to watch the parade. It all starts at 1 p.m. but I suggest you get there early to grab some Nathan’s and get a good spot to see the action.