|Jellyfish on the boardwalk at the 2014 Coney Island Mermaid Parade.|
On Saturday, I took the F train to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade. As soon as we boarded the train, we were greeted by a collection of colorful wigs, body glitter, seashells, and fishing nets arranged into mermaid costumes. With every station, the train grew a little more colorful.
|One of the fabulous Mer-People.|
As a born and bred New Yorker, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been to the Mermaid Parade. I was always fascinated by the idea of Coney Island. I read once that seaside amusement parts and resort towns were built by many of America’s early railroad tycoons, creating out of the way destinations easily reached by shiny new railroad tracks. Even though the hype of seaside towns has subsided, there is a pride and sense of neighborhood commitment that still exists for residents and a strong sense of nostalgia for occasional visitors.
We stopped first at the original Nathan’s on Stillwell and Surf. In just another week, it’s famous hot dog eating contest may hold another record-breaking victor. On Saturday, the lines stretched from counters to the police barricades on the street. I counted people as we waited. One line held roughly thirty people. If each person ordered two hot dogs, that would only total sixty. Last year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 69 hotdogs (with buns) in ten minutes.
This year’s parade was led by Mayor De Blasio and followed by a trail of home-made costumes. I was really impressed and inspired by the creativity. Umbrellas were outfitted with swirling ribbons to look like jellyfish. Cardboard boxes were transformed into lobster shells. One woman connected black and white balloons into a Damselfish costume. Another created a hat that looked like an octopus, complete with tangled tentacles.
|The Wonder Wheel
150 feet tall and 94 years old.
Afterwards, we rode one of the swinging cars on the Wonder Wheel. The swinging cars rock back and forth on a track, and for just a quick moment, the sliding car feels like it’s going to roll right off the end of the wheel. When the car stops swinging, the ocean breeze wraps through the cart and you can see all of Coney Island, old and new. One of Coney Island’s oldest attractions, the Wonder Wheel was built in 1920 with Bethlehem Steel. The only time the Wonder Wheel stopped running was during the 1977 blackout.
The Mermaid Parade dates back to 1983 and feels a lot like Mardi Gras. Partial nudity is expected and often encouraged, and the costume judges/parade organizers strongly encourage bribery for the best chance of taking home a costume prize.
Next year, I have every intention of making a home-made Queen Jellyfish costume as a winter project and walking in the parade. Between layers of tulle and streamers, you’ll probably spot a little bit of Brooklyn pride.