A Parade of Mermaids Marches On in Brooklyn’s Coney Island


Dolly McDermott and her mother, Patricia McDermott, were making their way along Surf Avenue on Coney Island shortly after noon on Saturday. They were trying to get to the registration table for Brooklyn’s annual Mermaid Parade, but it was slow going — spectators kept asking them to pose for pictures.

The daughter was wearing light-rimmed sunglasses, peach-colored frills, necklaces, bangles, and a foam seashell anchored to her back. Her mother struck a gothic contrast in black and white, with face paint and a full mermaid skeleton running the length of her outfit.

“One more! One more!” a photographer pleaded with them.

“It’s taken us half an hour to walk this far,” the younger Ms. McDermott, an artist and a self-styled “professional eccentric,” said. “Only because we look as good as we do,” her mother added.

The pair said they had been marching in Coney Island’s pageantry of aquatic weirdness for several years, and that they had not been deterred by a citywide heat advisory. The temperature was already 86 and climbing as costumed marchers and spectators assembled under a cloudless blue sky.

But the mood was upbeat as DJs on floats tested their speakers and marching bands tuned up near the staging area at Surf Avenue and West 21st Street.

On a side street, Elijah Thomas of Harlem stood under the shade of a tree with several of his bandmates from Honk NYC!, a nonprofit that promotes brass and percussive street music and participates regularly in the parade.

Mr. Thomas, 24, spoke about the inspiration that the Mermaid Parade, founded in 1983, drew from the street marching culture of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. A repeat performer at the Mermaid Parade, Mr. Thomas said he had come for “the pageantry, the community music making and the parading.”

Nearby on Surf Avenue, Dmitry Brill — better known as DJ Dmitry of the pop group Deee-Lite — did a soundcheck with his laptop mounted on a small float. The float was adorned with the name of a Berlin, Germany-based band he is producing, Nauti Siren, whose members were using their first turn at the parade to roll out a new single entitled, aptly enough, “Mermaid of the Year.”

Brill, 60, said this was his first time officially participating in the parade, though he attended it once as a spectator in the late 1980s.

Another first-time marcher, Leah King, wore a gold tiara, a bikini top and an eight-legged octopus skirt in the style of Ursula, the queenly villainess from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” She wielded a gold-tipped trident as she, too, stopped repeatedly for photographs.

“I’m a cosplayer,” Ms. King, 40, said. “I was made for this. The mermaid is my alter ego.”

The parade kicked off with this year’s official King Neptune and Mermaid Queen — New York husband and wife artists Joe Coleman and Whitney Ward — riding in an electric tricycle under a canopy trimmed with gold. Mermaids, ship captains, pirates and people dressed as various forms of marine life trailed behind, followed by musical floats and bands playing techno and pop hits.

The procession rolled east along Surf Avenue past rows of cheering spectators, past the original Nathan’s hot dog emporium, and toward its eventual turn onto the Boardwalk, and on to its end point at the towering metal Parachute Jump, one of Coney Island’s most recognizable landmarks.

Jenni Bowman, 42, of Brooklyn, watched with friends behind barricade fencing from under the shade of a four-pole party tent.

Ms. Bowman said she comes to the parade for its offbeat celebration of “ocean mythology,” as well as for its artistry. “It’s an art parade,” she said. “The people of New York City are incredible. This is a representation of their artistry and their love for this community.”

Acknowledging the weather, Bowman added, “My friends and I bought a tent to stay in the shade because we want to be hydrated and safe.”

As it happened, the weather eased as the afternoon wore on and a light cloud cover helped keep the temperature below 90 degrees.

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