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Brooklyn Paper: Reimagined Coney Island Mermaid Parade slated for this weekend


Sea monsters and fin folk can tune into a virtual livestream of Coney Island’s beloved Mermaid Parade this Saturday, Aug. 29, which will feature musical performances, dances, and marches, according to its organizers. 

You might see some familiar faces,” said Mark Alhadeff, a member of the arts organization Coney Island USA who helped host the event, now in its 38th year. “A lot of your favorites from the Mermaid Parade sent things in.”

The Mermaid Parade, which was postponed from its original June 20 date due to the coronavirus outbreak, will be held online to prevent the virus from spreading, Alhadeff said. A small group of participants will perform in an undisclosed, Coney Island location for a livestream that viewers can stream on Coney Island USA’s website, he said. 

“Our MCs are here, some specials guests are here,” said Alhadeff, who emphasized that the in-person performance space will follow strict social-distancing guidelines. “It’s a very, very big space. It’s incredibly well ventilated.”

In addition to live dances and marches, the event will also feature pre-recorded performances by well-known musicians singing songs about Coney Island, such as Arlo Guthrie, the lead singer of the rock band Death Cab for Cutie, and the lead singer of the alternative rock band The Feelies.

Ben Gibbard, the lead singer for the hit rock band Death Cab for Cutie, submitted a video of him singing a song about Coney Island.Ben Gibbard

The show has received nearly 200 video submissions from potential participants so far, said Alhadeff, who added that some of his favorite footage features costumed revelers parading through their apartments by themselves.

We’re hoping to have some people who literally parade,” he said. “People going back and forth across their apartments — it makes me happy.”

The event’s hosts originally planned to partner with bars across the country to host disparate, live-streamed celebrations of the festival, but Coney Island USA decided to go completely virtual out of concern for viewers’ health, Alhadeff said. 

“Because of what’s going on in the world, we killed the venue concept on the whole,” he said. “We are not officially sanctioning any venues.”

Parade organizers with Coney Island USA are working tirelessly to set up the venue where some performers will perform live for the virtual Mermaid Parade on Aug. 29.Norman Blake

Rather than taking the form of a parade or party, the reimagined event will imitate a 1970s charitable telethon, Alhadeff said. Viewers can make donations throughout the livestream on the organization’s website, which will go to Coney Island USA and other local non-profits including include the youth services program Salt and Sea Mission, the southern Brooklyn community organization Urban Neighborhood Services, and the Brooklyn arts organization BRIC, among others. 

In the style of a telethon, the event’s hosts will give shoutouts and prizes to donors, impersonate the 1970s telethon performer Jerry Lewis, and count the donations as they roll in on a gigantic thermometer, Alhadeff said. 

Participants may also enter the parade’s annual costume awards, known as the Mermies, which dole out trophies for the best mermaid and Neptune costumes, the best kids costume, the best sea creature, and the best music group, among other categories.  

Despite the parade’s setbacks due to the coronavirus outbreak, Alhadeff said that the Aug. 29 event will capture the spirit of the fun-loving parade.

“It’s basically a big variety show with Jerry [Lewis] in between,” he said. “If you’ve been to the Mermaid Parade, it will probably feel familiar.”

Brooklyn Paper