Keith Perks

PHOTOS: Coney Island Mermaid Parade in New York, 06/20/15

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Coney Island in New York was swimming with mermaids on Saturday, June 20, which sounds more unusual than it really was.

In fact, it seemed like everyone, dressed to the gills or not, fit in perfectly, and that’s by design. The Mermaid Parade is the largest art parade in the country, and it’s a place where no matter what age, size, shape, color, gender, or sexuality you are, you’re able to be you and express yourself with no judgment.

The official website for the 33rd annual event explains more:

A celebration of ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside, it showcases over 3,000 creative individuals from all over the five boroughs and beyond, opening the summer with incredible art, entrepreneurial spirit and community pride. The parade highlights Coney Island Pageantry based on a century of many Coney parades, celebrates the artistic vision of the masses, and ensures that the summer season is a success by bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the amusement area in a single day.

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.

Unlike most parades, this one has no ethnic, religious, or commercial aims. It’s a major New York holiday invented by artists! An American version of the summer-solstice celebration, it takes pride of place with West African Water Festivals and Ancient Greek and Roman street theater. It’s features participants dressed in hand-made costumes based on themes and categories set by us. This creates an artistic framework on which artists can improvise, resulting in the flourishing of frivolity, dedication, pride, and personal vision that has become how New York celebrates summer.

We swam through this sea of colorful characters and captured some fun and candid moments.