If you happened to see some nautical creatures walking through Brooklyn on Saturday, you probably caught a glimpse of revelers from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. This weekend marked the 37th annual parade, a tradition that celebrates the unique boardwalk culture of Coney Island, the summer solstice and the eclectic art of New York-based artists and performers. The parade, which has been recognized as the largest arts parade in the United States, is an underwater-themed spectacle that makes a splash for visitors of all ages from around the world.
Since its founding in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid parade has distinguished itself by bringing together huge crowds of artists and parade-goers. The parade celebrates Coney Island by bringing together community members—many of whom live on streets named Mermaid, Neptune and Surf Avenue—to celebrate their Coney Island pride. Every year the parade brings mythology to life through elaborate works of performance art, costumes, and parade floats, creating a seaside space for New Yorkers to proudly and boldly display their creativity.
This year it was estimated that nearly 850,00 spectators lined the streets, surpassing last year’s 825,000 visitors. Walking in the parade were 3,000 creative performers sporting their nautical-themed best. At the head of the procession were Arlo and Nora Guthrie, the king and queen of the parade, children of folk singer Woody Guthrie, and former residents of Mermaid Avenue. The Guthries led marchers decked out in fluorescent fishnets, seashell accessories, neon wigs, body paint, fake fins and more bedazzled, aquatic accouterments paraded down the streets as enthusiastic spectators waved on. Some participants were driven down the parade route from Surf Avenue to Steeplechase Plaza by vintage convertibles or giant floats. About a dozen marching bands added a soundtrack to the procession.
Unlike many of New York’s parades, the Mermaid Parade does not have any direct affiliation to a specific ethnic, religious or political groups. As the parade organizers say, it’s “a major New York holiday invented by artists.” However, many people take the opportunity to make statements about ocean pollution and other social issues. The main goal of the parade is to spread positivity and fun, and it continues to do so year after year.
Check out more photographs from the festivities below!
Learn more about the history of Coney Island on our upcoming summer tour, The Secrets of Coney Island: Past, Present, Future, & Unknown.