Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade swims on, despite fund woes

Coney Island's Mermaid Parade will be held on Saturday, June 17, 2017.
Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade will be held on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Photo Credit: NBC / Ron Batzdorff

A month ago, no one knew if this weekend’s Mermaid Parade on Coney Island would even happen. But now, just days away, organizers are ready for the event to go swimmingly.

The popular parade, run by the nonprofit Coney Island USA, had grown difficult to manage and become increasingly expensive. The sheer number of people — approximately 800,000 are expected Saturday — demands more amenities, more permits and more security, all of which are not cheap.

However, Dick Zigun, founder of Coney Island USA, said the public and a couple of generous donors raised the $50,000 needed to cover the bills, and now the show will go on as planned.

“The parade is going to be just fine,” Zigun said. “And this shows us that without panic and with some planning, there’s a way forward in the future.”

The Mermaid Parade has been going strong since 1983, and is the largest art parade in the country. The summer festival features extravagant floats, and attendees deck themselves out head-to-toe in shimmering sea creature costumes.

This year’s parade honors Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie as the parade royalty.

“People expect it to happen every year because it’s a tradition, a welcoming of summer,” said Eddie Mark, the District Manager of Coney Island’s Community Board 13. “This is essential to the neighborhood and continuing the history of what Coney Island used to be.”

This isn’t the first time the organization has turned to the community for help. After superstorm Sandy, Coney Island USA opened a Kickstarter campaign for $100,000 to help with damage repairs and other emerging costs for the parade.

Zigun said that the crowdfunding for the parade will likely have to continue in the years to come. He said the last thing the nonprofit organization wants to do is sell the parade to a corporation and lose the integrity of an iconic piece of New York.

“If we do an annual crowdsourcing campaign, that lets the artists and the people of Brooklyn who love the quirkiness of the parade and its art orientation to become ongoing sponsors to keep the parade free and funky.”