The Mermaid Parade, one of the nation’s quirkiest celebrations, will have its 33rd year annual celebration on Saturday in Coney Island.
Approximately 3,000 artists will gather at the parade to showcase their talent for thousands of onlookers. “It’s wacky, it’s very New York City,” said Dick Zigun, founder of the Mermaid Parade as well Coney Island USA, a non-profit arts organization. “If I can boast I am a good artist who made up its own holiday and New York City takes it seriously, I’m astonished.”
Parade organizers expect a little over 800,000 spectators who get to enjoy the whimsical floats and unique costumes celebrating mythology in New York City.
The title of King Neptunwill be bestowed this year upon “American Horror Story: Freak Show” actor Mat Fraser who played the character of Paul the Illustrated Seal in season four.
Meanwhile Queen Mermaid will be acclaimed burlesque performer and choreographer Julie Atlas Muz, who also happens to be Fraser’s wife.
Last year, the designations went to Dante and Chiara de Blasio, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s son and daughter.
The Mermaid Parade began in 1983 and according to Zigun, they had more performers than spectators at the time. Yet it has grown into one of the largest in the nation.
“From the very beginning it was intended to be an art parade,” Zigun said. “Encouraging creativity costumes and props and in addition we encourage the people to bribe the judges sometimes with food and libations or extravagant gifts that take thousands of hours to prepare.”
A tradition that dates from the beginning, parade participants can “bribe judges for the trophies in order to win best mermaid and Neptune costumes.
Despite the artsy vibe of the parade, it’s also one where a bit of nudity is allowed as it does pay homage to mythical sea creatures that are known for not wearing too much clothes.
“It’s Brooklyn family friendly, it’s a little big naughtt and a little bit nude,” Zigun said. “But Brooklynites take them to the mermaid parade and start a conversation on sexuality and nudity. If you’re prudish though I would keep away from Coney Island on Saturday, but it’s not like Mardi gras, it’s more creative and something unique to Brooklyn and it’s cool.”
Unfortunately, due to a lack of suitable venue the Mermaid Ball — the official after party of the parade – will not take place this year. Next year the parade assembly and Mermaid Ball is expected to be at the $53 million amphitheather being built where the former Child’s Restaurant used to stand on West 21st Street and the Boardwalk.
Performers and artists will have access to bathrooms, changing rooms, a stage and sound system in the 5,000 seat arena.
The parade starts at 1 p.m. on Surf Avenue and West 21st Street and usually ends around 5 p.m.. The route will go along east to West 10th Street and then turn south towards the boardwalk.
Motorcycles are also not allowed this year along the parade route.
Even after three decades and as far as Zigun knows he expects the parade to continue for the rest of his lifetime.
“I’m 62 now and debuting a smaller drum ,” Zigun said. “But other than that I plan to keep on marching. I imagine it will keep going and going.”