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Crowds of Revelers - The view from Coney Island's Riegelmann Boardwalk offers a glimpse of the crowd of visitors gathered to experience the Mermaid Parade.

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Take the Subway - "Are you nuts?" quips the advice on parking on the event's official website. The great majority of parade goers will arrive via the subway.

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Nathan's Famous - The original location of Nathan's Famous hot dogs stands across from the subway station and directly along the parade route. Early arrivals can beat the lines and enjoy a meal at the iconic landmark.

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Mer-baby - Young and old alike, folks travel from around the country to be a part of the celebration. Here a father holds up his daughter, donning a mermaid costume, to the delight of the surrounding observers.

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Last-Minute Details - One of the Mermaid Minions applies makeup in the staging area, using a friend's phone as a mirror.

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Bubbles and Wearable Art - Participant Rae Beth from Maryland dons an ornate, hand-made headdress along with bubbles she brought to "add cheer to a day with gloomy weather."

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Rain or Shine! - Mermaids are sea creatures, aren't they? This parade marches on despite the weather, but you may see a host of unprepared photographers scattering to avoid the rain.

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Purple Mermaids - Makeup artist and body painter Tash Kouri leads the Mermaid Minions, a group of purple, glittery marchers.

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Dance Practice - A fairy-winged mermaid pauses to snap a photo of a group practicing their dance routine in the parade staging area.

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It's the Little Things! - Even the most intricate details are tweaked in the mermaid costumes. Here, a marcher wears feather-like false eyelashes.

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A Photographer's Mecca - The colorful pageantry of the Mermaid Parade attracts crowds of photographers each year. Amateurs and professionals alike roam throughout the staging area before the procession begins.

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Selfies - A parade participant snaps a photo of herself while eagerly awaiting the start of the parade.

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Toasting Summer's Arrival - A few parade marchers raise a glass in celebration at one of the parade stops.

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Onto the Boards - The Mermaid Parade banner heralds the arrival of the marchers on the boardwalk. A mix of colors, celebration, and frivolity will soon follow.

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The Mermaid Queen - The Queen of the Mermaid Parade gestures to her subjects near the end of the annual event.

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The Boardwalk Procession - Participants and onlookers alike throw caution to the wind, as the welcome the summer at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

Each year, visitors from around the country travel to visit New York’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Held during the last week of June, the event showcases thousands of participants elaborately costumed as mythical sea creatures while scores of spectators seek to escape the heat and cheer them on. The largest art parade in the nation, the Mermaid Parade attracts hundreds of thousands of revelers to celebrate the beginning of the summer season.

History and Triumph

The history of the event begins with Dick Zigun, a man affectionately dubbed the “Mayor of Coney Island.” In 1983, his non-profit charity Coney Island USA, organized the first Mermaid Parade as an American version of the summer solstice celebrations. The yearly spectacle showcases nautical-themed pageantry and community pride, while providing it’s artistic participants a public forum for self-expression. The event has become a local holiday, drawing hundreds of thousands to the iconic seaside resort each year.

In June of 2013, the Mermaid Parade faced a struggle for survival after the non-profit sustained over $400,000 in damages as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Unable to cover the costs of expenses like permits, insurance, security, and food, Coney Island USA launched a crowdfunding campaign on the popular website Kickstarter to help save the parade from extinction. The grassroots movement included slogans such as “Save the Coney Island Mermaid from Extinction,” and succeeded in raising over $117,000 in donations, allowing the parade to continue.

“I donated,” says photographer Joe Alfano. “I’ve been going to Coney Island since I was a kid, so it was important to me. I love the Mermaid Parade.”

Niche Artists, Mythical Sea Dwellers, and Savvy Revelers

Floats, music groups, individual marchers, and even marching troupes are part of the annual Mermaid Parade. Each year, judges lightheartedly encouraging bribery choose select winners from select categories, most noteworthy of which are the annual King Neptune and Queen Mermaid.

The parade has also become a place to foster niche / unique small businesses involved in the arts such as Maryland-based wearable art designer Rae Beth Designs. “It’s an awesome experience to be a part of the celebration, and we create a new piece specifically for the event each year!,” says owner Rae Beth.

Body artist and makeup designer Tash Kouri cheekily remarks with a smile “The Mermaid Parade is my one day of unabashed vanity, so deal with it!”

Visitors savvy enough to arrive early, can treat themselves to one of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, before lines circle the block. They can also likely catch a glimpse of press photographers and participants alike headed to the staging area. Inside, marchers ready their costumes and pose for photos in areas designated as “family-friendly” and well, “not-so-family-friendly.”

“The staging area is a blast!” states photographer Mark Stein. “I come every year!”

At the conclusion of a long day of revelry, visitors will find the gates cast open for free subway admission on the return trip to New York Penn Station. It has become a tradition to bid farewell to the mermaid guests and welcome the summer in this fashion.

Parade Schedule and Route

The Mermaid Parade starts at 1 pm, beginning on West 21st and Surf Ave. It travels eastward to West 10th street and turns onto the boardwalk headed back toward Steeplechase Plaza. Here the parade usually wraps up and disbands around 4 pm.

How to get there

From Midtown Manhattan, take the D, Q, N or F train to Stillwell Avenue. This will put you at the foot of Nathan’s Famous and directly on the parade route.

Bus routes available: B36 (Coney Island / Avenue U/Sheepshead Bay), B64 (Coney Island / Bay Ridge), B68 (Coney Island / Windsor Terrace), B74 (Sea Gate / Coney Island), B82 (Coney Island / Spring Creek)

Travel by car strongly not recommended on the island’s busiest day of the year.

Visit www.coneyisland.com/tourist-information for more information.