June 23 is the first Saturday after the summer solstice, which means it’s that special time of year when mermaids, the rarest of creatures, can be seen in the thousands. That’s right, it’s the 25th anniversary of the annual Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, a celebration of sand, sea and questionable fish. In addition to hand-made mermaid and Neptune costumes, Coney Island’s own version of Mardi Gras boasts floats, various art, marching bands, antique cars and even a lighthouse, making it the nation’s largest art parade. It kicks off at 2 p.m. at West 10th Street and the Boardwalk, where King Neptune and Queen Mermaid will toss fruit into the ocean to appease the Sea Gods and mark the official opening of the ocean for the summer swimming season.
David Gratt, Managing Director of Coney Island USA, the not-for-profit arts organization that produces the parade, has announced that this year’s celebrity King Neptune will be Adam Savage of the Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters,” whose appearance will do double duty, “dispelling the myth that this is the Mermaid Parade’s last year,” and Queen Mermaid will be Patti D’Arbanville of FX’s “Rescue Me,” who’ll be there “to rescue Coney Island from Poorly Planned Development” (cute, huh?).
After the parade, stay for the ball, when everybody will gather to listen to music and watch sideshow acts and burlesque shows like the all-female “Tits and Giggles.” For a thrill of the non-marine variety, slip in to see Chuy, “the Wolf Man of Mexico,” living proof that fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t always a bear.
With the destruction of Astroland a done deal and all kinds of development looming, this Mermaid Parade may be the last to bear witness to Coney Island as it once was. So whether you have a thing for Ariel or Triton, take a break from your fellow bipeds and get your sea legs—who knows, one of these days the Mermaid Parade could be taking place under water.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Keen on Flickr.