Coney Island Mermaid Parade

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Want just the facts on the Coney Island Mermaid Parade? See our Coney Island Mermaid Parade Questions & Answers post.

Image of a man in an elaborate Neptune costume, including trident. He is one of the marchers in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Ladies and gentleman, live from the deep blue sea, for a limited engagement, for your entertainment, let’s hear it for Neptune. Nep-tune, ladies and gentlemen.

Neptune’s Coney Island: Mermaids, Mermen, Mythology

Neptune vacations on Coney Island Beach every June. The King of the Sea perches on his favorite seawall and rests.

For days Ole Nep does little except watch swimmers race, women sunbathe and children build sand castles. At night he slides off his rocky throne and into the water. His scorched skin sizzles a bit upon touching the cold sea.

He squeezes clumps of seaweed together to form a pillow. Floating on his back, he looks up, way up, past the Parachute Jump and into space.

Ancient starlight filters past his eyes and into his imagination. Ironic thoughts break on his mind, then fizzle into sea foam. Outer space,  the ocean, so alike, so different. Why?

Here on Coney Island, halfway between deep space and the deep ocean, he asks the same question every year.

Image of young man wearing costume and make-up for the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn, New York. He is grimacing at the camera.
Please don’t touch or feed the creatures at the Mermaid Parade. They may bite.

Green-red cruise ship lights remind him of blue-white stars above. Coney Island’s aromas doggie-paddle out to his nose: grilled cheeseburgers, cotton candy, women’s perfume, onion rings, old wood, Nathan’s hot dogs, coconut tanning oil, salty air, salty hair.

Sounds, too, merge into a jet stream that floods his ears. Families laugh on the Wonder Wheel. Beer bottles clink. Chatter. Screams from the Cyclone roller coaster. Paint guns fire at the Gimp. Sandy feet shuffle. Basketballs bounce. Handballs slam into walls. Bats strike baseballs. Ole Nep dozes off to this, his Coney Island lullaby. He sleeps. Deeply.

Days, perhaps weeks, later a crab bites his toe. The crab reminds him he asked to be woken a few days before the summer solstice. His toe stings, but no matter, he feels renewed.

Night becomes day. The Earth circles the sun. So must Neptune celebrate summer’s arrival at Coney Island.

Image of a couple dresses as King and Queen of the sea participating in annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Say that quickly five times. Way back when, Coney Island’s slogan was “Playground of the Atlantic.”

Neptune’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade Pre-Party

Ole Nep wiggles his fingers in the water. The ocean’s creatures understand his signal. The jellyfish, sea horses, and shrimp dash off. Urchins, sharks, rays and blowfish do too. They rush to invite Neptune’s party guests.

Mizuchi-San from Japan arrives first. They chat on the seawall and drink saltwater mojitos. A loud, crashing wave brings in Lir from Ireland and Kenaloa from Hawaii at the same time.

Njord, that show off, rides in on Big Blue, his favorite whale, and immediately starts flirting with the mermaids. Chalchiutlivue (Cha Cha to her friends) backstroked all the way up from Central America.

Poseiden shows up with the Nereid sisters, those lovely sea nymphs, and the Chinese Ao brothers (Ao Qin, Ao Run, Ao Shun, Ao Guang) arrive just after midnight. Triton does the Charleston with Yemaya. Matsya sings Coney Island Baby with five mermaids wearing octopi as hats backing him up.

For three days and three nights Ole Nep and company swing, dance, drink, sing, splash, dive and laugh.

Just before dawn on the morning of the solstice, Ole Nep’s guests ask him to do that trick he does every year. Their gracious host inhales and exhales quickly. Then again. On the third attempt he dips underwater and inhales for three, almost four hours.

He resurfaces. Cheeks and belly puffed out, head cocked to the sun. Salacia, his lady friend, points a champagne bottle at his midsection and shakes it.

The cork whizzes by the guests and lodges directly in Ole Nep’s belly button. “Neppy!” Salacia screams, “That hasn’t happened in three or four-hundred years!”

Neptune’s taut belly erupts upon impact. His wide mouth opens to release millions of sea creatures. They soar in an arc, glinting in the sun before clunking back into the ocean.

Chortles, giggles and hoots become oohs and aahs. General crack-up echoes off the waves.

A school of dolphins, new to this spectacle, slap their bellies in amusement. Some spin port and starboard, others fore and aft. All while cackling their high-pitched dolphin laughs.

Image of a spectator at Coney Island's Mermaid Parade. He is wearing a home-made hat on his head that has miniature recreations of Coney Island symbols, including the iconic Parachute Jump, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs stand and the Wonder Wheel.
Some Mermaid Parade spectators are just as creative as the marchers. This man’s hat features several Coney Island icons, including the Wonder Wheel, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs & the Parachute Jump.
Close-up image of young, smiling woman with a parakeet on her shoulder. Both the woman and the parakeet wear flowers on their head. They were participants in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
The rough seas do have their gentler side.
Two smiling children, a boy and a girl, stand in front of him, as Uncle Sam leans toward them.
Uncle Sam celebrates summer with two constituents.

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade Begins

Once released from Neptune’s belly, most of the sea creatures scurry back to the depths. A few thousand, however, float motionless on the surface.

Triton clears his throat and blows into his conch shell. One motionless creature tilts a leg. Another an arm. A head here, a foot there. More move each time Triton’s conch sounds.

A whirlpool forms and sucks each of the creatures into it before whipping them toward Coney Island Beach. There are big creatures and small creatures. Skinny creatures, fat creatures. Colorful creatures. Monochromatic creatures.

Finned creatures, scaly creatures, creatures with tails. Smiling creatures. Scowling creatures. Creatures from the sea. From mythology. From the imagination.

Once on the beach they continue on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, then over to Surf Ave, where they sing, dance and make merry just like Neptune’s party guests. Crowds gather to watch them. They celebrate summer. The sea. Life.

Mermen and mermaids march for hours. Summer’s new sun burns their skin and squints their eyes. The spectators lose them in the harsh, mid-afternoon bright light at boardwalk’s end.

The creatures vanish as quickly as they appeared. Back into the sea, back into the depths. For another year. Until Neptune’s next summer party.

Image of a man and two men participating in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The two young women wear identical blue dresses and crowns. One wears a sache that says "Ms. Atlatntic," the other wears one that says "Ms. Pacific." The man is dressed as a sea capatain.
The captain welcomes Ms. Atlantic and Ms. Pacific to the Mermaid Parade.


Revelers dressed in outlandish costumes take part in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Somebody took the express train to Funkytown.


See our Coney Island Mermaid Parade Questions & Answers post for parade logistics.

You may also enjoy our Staten Island Ferry post.

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