Thursday, June 16, 2011

Surf's up! Mermaid Parade returns to Coney this Saturday

By Alex Rush

At this Coney Island parade, it’s merman versus food.

The king of the 29th annual Mermaid Parade, a nautical-themed costume party along Surf Avenue, is none other than the Brooklyn-born star of “Man v. Food,” Adam Richman.
Richman and his Queen Mermaid, NBC New York personality Cat Greenleaf, will lead the People’s Playground procession that celebrates the beginning of summer.

“I’m thrilled that two television personalities are leading the parade this year,” said parade founder Dick Zigun, whose jaunty jaunt has previously made King Neptunes out of actor Harvey Keitel, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, musician Moby, gravel-voiced and -personalitied singer Lou Reed, and late local legend Rabbi Abraham Abraham.

But the Mermaid Parade is more than just a celebrity showcase. It’s an afternoon-long festival featuring marching bands, antique cars and near-naked sea nymphs covered by only body paint and maybe clam shell bikinis for the more conservative participants. The most eye-popping costumes receive awards like “Best Mermaid.”

And when we say “Best” costume, we really mean “least costume.”

“It’s our Mardi Gras,” Zigun said.

But this New York holiday often has a political twist. For instance, last year some marchers tried to spread awareness about the environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico with signs like “F—k You BP, Save the Mermaids.” And in 2009 some protested Mayor Bloomberg’s Coney rezoning plan to turn the neighborhood into a year-round tourist destination with amusement parks, shopping and hotels.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but I think this year there will be a patriotic spirit because of the death of Osama bin Laden,” said Sideshow performer Stephanie “Serpentina” Torres, who says this year she’ll dress as a “military superhero with a nautical twist.”

After the parade, performers and spectators can congregate at the after-party at the Aquarium’s 1,000-seat amphitheater. The extravaganza will feature a sea lion show, synchronized swimmers and performances by both burlesque and kitschy carnie acts.

Mermaid Parade [starts at W. 21st Street and Surf Avenue in Coney Island, (718) 372-5101], June 18 at 2 pm; Mermaid Parade Ball at the New York Aquarium [602 Surf Ave. near W. Eighth Street in Coney Island, (718) 264-3474], June 18 at 7 pm. Tickets $25. For info, visit


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