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Coney Island group unveils plans for reimagined Mermaid Parade

Coney Island's 38th annual Mermaid Parade will be held across dozens of bars and restaurants on Aug. 29. (Photo by Erica Price)

Revelers and wayward sea creatures can celebrate Coney Island’s beloved Mermaid Parade at a “de-centralized” event later this summer, organizers announced on Saturday. 

Parade organizers will work with bars, restaurants, and other venues across the globe to stage the Aug. 29 “parade,” which will feature costumes, prizes, and beloved Mermaid Parade traditions, one event organizer said. 

“We’re going to have celebrity guests, we’re going to do some surprise stunts, we’re going to have prizes,” said Mark Alhadeff, a member of Coney Island USA, the arts non-profit that hosts the parade.

The 38th annual Mermaid Parade, originally slated for June 20, was postponed due to the novel coronavirus — and its hosts decided to keep the event socially-distanced out of fear of spreading the disease. 

“We can’t have 800,000 people in Coney Island for obvious reasons,” Alhadeff said. “The last thing we want to do is have a super spreader event.”

Coney Island USA, however, hopes to recreate the parade’s communal atmosphere by featuring the disparate celebrations in a live-streamed event online. The format will not only allow attendees to maintain a safe social distance, but will also give the audience a chance to take a closer look at some of the intricate costumes, Alhadeff said.

“People really want to talk about their costume,” he said. “This year people can really get screen time.”

mermaid parade
Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade is a site for quirky, creative costumes. (Photo by Erica Price)

The reimagined march will also carry on other Mermaid Parade staples, such as its costume contest, spearheaded by this year’s inaugural King and Queen, playwrights Jeremy O. Harris and Lynn Nottage. The King and Queen, along with a panel of judges, will determine the best Mermaid and Neptune costumes, the best child’s costume, the best musical group, and more.

And just as the Mermaid Parade typically honors the symbolic rebirth of the Coney Island shoreline, each venue participating in the 2020 “parade” will be given a bottle of Coney Island seawater, which attendees can use to baptize each other, Alhadeff said.

“We’re going to distribute to the venues bottles of Coney Island so they can baptize themselves with Coney Island water,” he said. 

One difference in this year’s event, however, is that it will serve to fund outside organizations. A maximum of half of the donations will go to Coney Island USA, and the other half will be split between several other charities chosen by the organizers and the parade’s King and Queen, Alhadeff said.

“We’re goofy, we fool around, but we’re also serious and want to make sure we’re doing our part,” Alhadeff said. 

To advertise the fundraiser, the live-streamed event will be in the style of a telethon — and will feature telethon tropes, such as a gigantic thermometer measuring donations and songs from Jerry Lewis, a frequent telethon performer in the 1970s. 

And while the event won’t be held in its Coney Island home, Alhadeff said that he hopes to work with some local bars and restaurants to host small celebrations as part of the “parade.” 

“Hopefully, there will be venues in Coney Island, but we do expect everybody to act responsibly,” Alhadeff said.  

This story first appeared on brooklynpaper.com.

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