Keith Perks

PHOTOS: Coney Island Mermaid Parade in New York City, 06/18/16

PHOTOS: Coney Island Mermaid Parade in New York City, 06/18/16
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Sebastian the crab may have some compelling arguments in his famous Disney song to remain “Under the Sea,” but he clearly never attended the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, where Ariel and all her colorful friends would fit in quite perfectly.

With more than 3,000 registered participants, the Mermaid Parade is the nation’s largest art parade, partially funded by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and fully fueled by creativity. The Queen Mermaid of the 34th annual event was Hailey Clauson, a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model, and King Neptune was Carlo A. Scissura, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Kicking off at Surf Avenue and West 21st Street and running along Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk before ending at Steeplechase Plaza, this amazing spectacle is better described in pictures than in text, but the official website adds additional context to this inclusive, fun-loving event rooted in free artistic expression:

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 three 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 features participants dressed in handmade 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.

See photos from the 2015 Mermaid Parade here.