The Mermaid Parade returns to Coney Island this weekend, with shiny scales, elastic flippers and, yes, widespread nudity on Surf Avenue.
Founded in 1983, the Coney Island institution is like Halloween in the summer, with hundreds of participants dressed up as mermaids and mermen, of course, but also any variation of sea nymph, from clamshells to Poseidon.
Famously, no costume at all is a popular option (pasties or body paint in key places — or not).
Kate Dale favors more modest arrangements, but her costumes are still eye-popping. The Midwood resident, now in her 18th parade, has won Best Mermaid three times and Best Float twice, parading around on a giant pink sofa one year, another on a swing float inspired by a painting by Fragonard.
This year, she’s turning to the new Luna Park for inspiration for the June 19 parade.
“I’ll be harkening back to Coney Island’s past, as well as celebrating the present,” said Dale, who will be sitting on a paper moon floating over a cardboard sea, doing a 1920s interpretation of a mermaid.
Other notable parade participants this year include Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, who will preside as this year’s King Neptune and Queen Mermaid, an honor previously bestowed on the likes of David Byrne and Queen Latifah.
For eager spectators, the festivities start at Surf Avenue and W. 21st Street, with the marchers, as well as floats and antique cars winding their way east to W. 10th Street, then turning south towards the Boardwalk, where it will turn west towards Stillwell Avenue.
It’s not too late to join in the parade yourself, and for mermaids piecing together their costumes at the last minute, Dale has some words of advice.
“Definitely consider incorporating a shade element,” said Dale. Most important, “Engineer your costume so you can move.”
Because on land, mermaids are like fish out of water.
Mermaid Parade [starts at W. 21st Street and Surf Avenue in Coney Island, (718) 372-5101], June 19 at 2 pm. For info, visit www.coneyisland.com.