Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Mermaids, Mermen and aspiring Neptunes shimmied and swam their way down Surf Ave. on Saturday at the 20th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Several hundred costumed revelers, including some oil-splattered mermaids waving anti-BP banners and chanting slogans, marched in the sunny three-hour procession.
The burlesque community was well represented and several marchers described the day as their Thanksgiving. For others it was Halloween in the summer.
Tony Fradkin, 55, has been coming to the parade for years and this year he arrived wielding a bloody butcher knife and standing in a wooden tub. “It’s kinda like when the Halloween parade first started, it was a lot smaller and a lot more diverse than it is now, but let’s hope it keeps the flavor of Coney Island and stays on the raunchy side," Frandkin says.
The Mermaid Parade is not for the faint of heart, and some of the mermaids are known for what they aren’t wearing. Sabina Ciarai, a 23-year-old graphic designer, explains her wardrobe choice: “I was a little on the fence about doing it at first, but then I realized a mermaid wouldn’t be on the fence about doing something like that, a mermaid is just comfortable with herself, so I thought I would go into it with a mermaid philosophy.”
Representing what she calls the "large mermaids of the world," Janie Martinez spent her 37th birthday in an aqua bikini marching in the parade with a group called Fatty Tuna Roll.
"We’re here with every kind of beautiful freak that is out there, just having a good time, enjoying the sun, and it’s just a nice little community to be a part of," Martinez says.
Fatty Tuna Roll won the honor of best Mermaids.
The parade ended, as it does every year, with a “semi-serious” procession and a cutting of four ribbons, symbolizing the four seasons. King Neptune, played by Lou Reed this year alongside his queen, Laurie Anderson, joined the organizers in the other annual ritual: plunging a giant key in the water, "turning up the temperature" and opening the ocean for the summer.