Hello g33ks, m33ks and any sponsors from the Capitol… If any of you want to send me a little parachute with some medicine for a fever that’d be awesome. I am writing this in my delirium after my fever of 101 dropped all the way down to 100. Its fine because I’m in the perfect mental state to describe one of the craziest events anywhere in the world. Yes. The entire world. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you my review of the 29th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
For a lot of people Coney Island is not a real place… its a fantasy land written about in old newspapers, in novels, on tv, and in movies. It conjures images of Nathan’s Famous hotdogs, Boardwalks and the place where meteors carrying unstoppable giant aliens land in the water. A lot of people know that the Wonder Wheel is there, or world famous wooden roller coaster The Cyclone. Some of you will have even heard of the Coney Island SideShow. This place is one of the most interesting and artistic neighborhoods in the world, but in 2011 it is also a place that is in peril. Wealthy land developers have bought large lots of the boardwalk and are moving along dark dirty kitschy fun things like Shoot the Freak in favor of building several modern theme parks, chain restaurants and new housing developments. This is important to note because it is only in that dark, dirty kitschy Coney Island that you could ever have invented an event like The Mermaid Parade.
This is an event that celebrates the sun, the sea, the beach, sailors, and those beautiful creatures known as mermaids. A parade in which anyone with an artistic bent can march… participants spend up to a year creating headpieces, parasols, dresses, and of course tails. Some even rework the same costume every year making it more elaborate or developing a routine to entertain the crowd. This is an opportunity to make yourself beautiful or scary, subdued or extreme, and the center of attention for the day. The rules are simple if you want to march bring a costume and sign up. Many people walk in a group representing an organization or similar theme/style of costume. Friends of mine like Dangrrr Doll marched representing a burlesque show Original Cyn, Lily Stitches was the sign holder for the NY Pinup Club, and Miss Cherry Delite marched with her friends representing just themselves and their beautiful costumes. Standout routines were Sasha The Fire Gypsy who ate fire in one of the best mermaid tales I’ve ever seen, a little girl who could be no older than 9 who marched the whole parade on 15′ stilts and Tails of Glory a group who have been marching for 10 years in the parade. (These ladies did a tribute to Kung Fu Movies like Enter the Dragon, Big Trouble in Little China and Kill Bill.) Following all the wacky dancing, costumes and wanton nudity are classic/custom cars. These are award winning beautiful machines; highlights were “Devil in a Blue Dress” a winner at The Lead East car show and an absolutely dead on Back to the Future Delorian complete with Mr. Fusion and Hoverboard.
This is a strange event, where families march in the streets along with performance artists, hipsters, burlesque dancers, marine biologists and random tourists who happened by on the day of the parade and managed to scrounge themselves a costume. I saw this happen with a mother and daughter after I dropped Lily off with the Pinup Club and went to check out the classic cars. I was checking out the Delorean with the husband/father and the two women saw the sign up table. A few minutes after talking to the registration people they left fully dressed and came back wearing bikini bottoms cover up skirts pinned to look like mermaid tales and not much more. They then signed up and marched in the parade.
The Brooklyn Boro President welcomed us to the “most underdressed parade in America”, and while I’m sure Mardis Gras might have a legit argument against that…They don’t have flappers, pinup sailors, mermaids, lobster girls and jellyfish parasols. This is such a uniquely Coney Island Event I spoke with people who came from as far away as Florida to attend. It is an insane amount of fun and if you like handmade costumes, classic cars, Nathan’s Hotdogs and alcohol by the beach you should save the date for next year. This is not an event to come to to oogle women or men, its not a freakshow (that takes place at Sideshows by the Seashore and is a fantastic show), its one of the things I love most… thousands of people having fun. In a way that is as unique and different as the neighborhood they are in and the people who attend.
*Thanks again to Brandon Herman for photographing the parade and letting us use his pics on the site. You can find him at www.TheSurfaceofThings.com