Coney Island Mermaid Parade Triumphs Despite Scorching Heat

Mermaid Parade attendee poses in homemade costume.Photo: Tony Lipka

By: Tony Lipka

The sun was blazing, but the mass of mermaids marched on.

The 42nd annual Mermaid Parade was held on Saturday, bringing thousands of people to Coney Island despite the extreme heat.

Organized by the nonprofit arts organization Coney Island USA, and conceptualized in 1983 by Dick Zigun, the organization’s founder, the Mermaid Parade is now the largest art parade in the U.S.
Three parade attendees pose for a photo in matching outfits. Photo: Tony Lipka

According to organizer Rebecca Lieb, the massive event draws roughly 3,000 participants and “celebrates ancient mythology and seaside ritual.”

The parade runs every summer no matter the weather. Starting on West 21st Street and Surf Avenue, participants march to West 10th Street and then turn the corner and continue along the boardwalk.

With the whoosh of the roller coasters heard in the distance, the parade kicked off at 1pm with large decorated floats, marching bands and dance groups peppering Surf Avenue.

The route was packed with street vendors and attendees of all ages wearing colorful homemade costumes.

Wendy Ortiz, who watched the parade from the sidelines, was complimented on her red and black vampire-mermaid combination costume by many passersby while photographers snapped pictures.

Ortiz said that during her first time attending the parade in 2019, she “fell in love with the whole thing.”

She also loved the diversity: “Black, white, Asian; everybody’s having fun.”

The parade’s Creative Director Adam Rinn also emphasized the importance of the event’s diverse attendees and participants.

“It’s the creative spirit and inspiration of the people of New York City and beyond that make the parade what it is,” he said.

Brian Dillon (L) and his brother Michael Dillon at the parade. Photo: Tony Lipka

Two brothers, Brian and Michael Dillon, are parade regulars. Michael has been crafting custom hats for his brother to wear every year for 15 years.

Brian, adorning this year’s new headwear and a big smile, credited the location for the parade’s clear sense of creativity and freedom of expression.

“Coney Island has always been one of the most important places in New York, it’s everybody and everything,“ he said.

He quoted George C, Tilyou, entrepreneur and founder of the original Steeple Chase amusement park, now Maimonides Park, in 1897.

“If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.”

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