Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade returns this month

June 12, 2024

All photos courtesy of Norman Blake

New York City’s colorful Mermaid Parade returns to the Coney Island boardwalk this month. Hosted by Coney Island USA, the spectacle is considered the nation’s largest “art parade,” attracting 3,000 participants wearing handmade sea-themed costumes and marching next to mythical floats. The 42nd annual Mermaid Parade takes place on Saturday, June 22, at 1 p.m., rain or shine.

Now considered the unofficial kick-off of summer in New York City, the Mermaid Parade was founded by the nonprofit Coney Island USA in 1983 as a nod to the neighborhood’s Mardi Gras parades from the early 20th century. 

Celebrating ancient mythology and seaside rituals, including a crowned King Neptune and Queen Mermaid, the parade shows off the city’s creativity and community pride. Visitors can expect vibrant costumes and floats, marching bands, drill teams, dancing, antique cars, and more.

Map courtesy of Coney Island USA

The parade begins at 1 p.m. at West 21st Street and Surf Avenue. From there, the parade will proceed east on Surf Avenue to West 10th Street, turn south toward the boardwalk, and head west to Steeplechase Plaza.

At 4 p.m., Adam Rinn, Coney Island’s artistic director, will lead a procession to the beach at 19th Street to welcome the start of the summer swimming season. Awards will be given to the best costumes across several categories on July 9; the top three vote-getters in each category will be notified prior to the invite-only event.

This year, painter Joe Coleman and his wife, photographer Whitney Ward, will serve as King Neptune and Queen Mermaid. In keeping with tradition, they will be wheeled through the parade in an antique wicker boardwalk chair dating back to 1923.

“Our King and Queen this year is a dream come true. I’ve been a fan of Joe Coleman’s work since I saw an article about him in a horror magazine 35 years ago,” Rinn said.

“Over the years, I got to know Joe and Whitney from hanging out in the judges’ reviewing stands at the parade and because they’re frequent guests at our fundraising events. They fully embrace all that Coney Island USA has to offer. Art, performance, and history. Plus they’re two of the nicest, talented, and most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.”

According to Coney Island USA, the Mermaid Parade was created to achieve three goals: bring sea mythology to life for residents of Mermaid and Neptune Streets, build neighborhood pride at a time when it was low, and provide a space for New Yorkers to express themselves.

Parade registration is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot between 21st and 22nd Streets and Surf Avenue. Learn more about the parade here.


All photos courtesy of Norman Blake

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  1. G

    the mermaid parade ,is fun to look at,all the costumes are so unique.