Mermaids at large, Coney Island

I'm always looking for an excuse to travel, no matter how lame.

So when I was invited, by a New York friend, to come to the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. I started planning another trip. I arranged business visits to studios in New York, Katonah and Toronto so it became a business trip arranged around a weekend parade.
It's been many years since I have flown the direct Melbourne to New York route.

And it will be many years before I do it again. 26 hours from home to a hotel. Exhausting.

Not helped by leaving Melbourne in the depths of winter and arriving in the hottest heat wave since 1933. 8.30pm and it was still over 90F.





Saturday arrived with another predicted stinking hot day so I packed a hat and off I went. My friend, Bruce, had arranged the day with great precision. I was to meet him at the Coney Island Station and then we were to go to the gathering centre at the start of the parade. The pavement was already white hot.




All sorts of mermaids were already gathering even though the parade was not starting for 4 hours. It was going to be a long hot day with many people regretting the amount of flesh on view in the burning sun. At the starting point Bruce got us press passes. These allowed you into the gathering area where large backdrops had been set up for portraits of the participants.






Now I always thought that for a press pass you need credentials.

For the Mermaid Parade a press credential was really just a money raising exercise and an excuse for men of a certain age to get close and personal with barely dressed young women.





It was a great place for portraits without the crowds that would be coming later. Another advantage is that there were washrooms readily available. This was important for a long day on the street. I discovered that mermaids came in all sizes, colours and ages. There are angel mermaids, vampire mermaids and transsexual mermaids.





There was a wonderful community feeling and everyone was there to have fun. When the parade started we moved out into the crowd and passed many that were still walking down to the collection area.






We found a place on the street where there was a small amount of shade and settled in to watch the parade. During the parade one of our group suffered from heat exhaustion and I kept having to go back to the washrooms in the press area. After the parade moved passed us we went down to the boardwalk where the parade was going to swing back to. The crowds were so thick that we walked along the sand.






So much flesh was on show that I asked what would happen on a normal Coney Island day if someone walked on the beach like that. I was told that they would get fined.

The parade walks passed a table of judges. I wondered how they judged the parade.

I was informed that bribery has a large part in the judging.

At the end of the parade the participants rush into the sea throwing fruit in to feed and appease the sea gods. By now we had been in the sun for 7 hours and needed a break.

Luckily Bruce lived close and we went back there to freshen up before continuing the day at the Mermaid Ball. The ball was to be held at the Aquarium which was appropriate.

I also noted that the ball was adults only. was looking like an interesting night. The night started with a sea lion demonstration. It was very sweet.



We were then herded out into the aquarium for a band or two then called back into the arena.




For the next hour we were entertained by burlesque dancers, mermaids and synchronised swimmers. The winners of the parade were announced with a group that had bribed the judges with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches winning first prize.






Then came some of the best burlesque performers from the area. The first act was a very clever send up of the earlier sea lion performance with a woman dressed as a sea lion.





The night was raunchy and fun. A perfect end to the parade. It had been a very long day and I had to pinch myself to stay awake on the trip back to the city.

It had been a 14 hour day in the elements. The next day I was sunburned and weary. As it was a Sunday I simply crashed.

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