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The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

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reprinted from The Brooklyn Paper

Saturday, June 20; Surf Avenue, Coney Island; 2-6 PM; Mermaid Ball in two sessions, 5:30-midnight;
For more information, visit http://www.coneyisland.com

As uncertain as things seem to be about whatever the future holds for Coney Island as an amusement area neighborhood – especially with the current financial crisis - at least one thing seems to remain unchanged in the area: the annual Mermaid Parade, which takes place this Saturday – as it has been for almost three decades..

For those who have never attended, the parade (which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year), this festival of hand-made costumes and – well, very little clothing - marks the true beginning of summer- on a recent edition, a group of women used an intergalactic theme in plastic outfits that must have been scorching under 80-degree weather), assorted sea creatures and random political commentary.

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“I love the people, I love being in the parade, waving to the kids, taking photo's with tourists, dancing at Ruby's at the end of the day,” says freelance illustrator Molly Crabapple. “Everyone is feeling fabulous, showing off their fins. People are there to have a good time and they do. It's a very positive day. The worst thing for me is the weird tan lines I end up with from my costume!”

The Annual Mermaid Parade will be followed by the Mermaid Ball, which this year takes place in two separate sessions at The Dreamland Roller Rink, which is located at the Childs Building - 3052 West 21st St at the boardwalk

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The ball begins as the parade wraps – according to information on the parade's website, Thee Ball will run in 2 skating sessions 5:30pm-8:30pm and 9pm-Midnight - tickets go for $20 (skate rental $5 or bring your own). Weather allowing, it will surely bring large crowds in an event that is usually very crowded – here are some tips for first-time participants: - Access to the parade is simple enough, but mass transit is advisable on this case, since it is one of the busiest days on Coney Island, and parking might be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge to Coney. - While delis will be selling alcoholic beverages, it is also advisable to remind that open containers are still illegal on parade grounds, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out. To stay out of potential trouble, you can patronize Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or other vendors in the area. - Timing is crucial for the best enjoyment. “I recommend they get there early to secure a good viewing spot, bring their camera, sun-block and water,” says Pontani. “I think it's great for a first- timer to watch the parade and participate the following year.” - “If you can afford it, be a judge (for a donation of $ 100 to Coney Island USA)and sit in the reviewing stands,” says local emcee Fred Kahl, AKA The Great Fredini. “You get a birds-eye view of the whole parade and get all the great bribes for participants wanting to win a prize. Molly Crabapple also suggests participating as a judge, but she says that “it's the most fun to perform.” - Bathrooms can be a problem. There are public restroom facilities at Nathan's and on the boardwalk. You can also use the facilities at Astroland and Deno's for a fee of 25 cents. “As America's largest Art parade, there's so many wonderful sights to see and its all created by independent artists for everyone to enjoy, says Kahl. “The only bad thing I can think of is the line for the bathroom” “A lot of things [in Coney] have changed over the years and with such changes going on, I imagine we are going to be looking at a lot more,” says Pontani. “The parade itself has changed a in the past decade alone, in terms of participants, the route, the crowds. I only hope it continues to grow, gain popularity and fans. I believe it will remain one of the staple events that people love and associate with Coney Island.”

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