Sunday, June 23, 2013

2013 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

I have never been to Coney Island before yesterday.  It’s a place I wanted to go to since going to the aquarium when I was in High School, but I had never made it there.  I heard (and saw pictures) of the Mermaid Parade a few years ago and then really wanted to make the trip out to Coney Island.

Coney Island does not disappoint.  Now friends of mine not in the costuming scene knew I was going and continued to remind me of how it’s not the best area and to stay safe.  Well sure, but when you’re in the city or the boroughs no area is 100% safe.  It’s an unfortunate by product of people living in close quarters.  Even out on the island we have towns that are not safe particularly at night.  Gordon Heights anyone?  When by the border of Gordon Heights during twilight I can feel the mood change.  However, the boardwalk of Coney Island is a tourist area.  We weren’t walking the streets of Coney Island.

Having never been to Coney Island before, I had no idea how to get there.  I knew subways ended at Coney Island but I wasn’t sure where in Coney Island.  I also did not think of taking the train to Atlantic Terminal.  I was going to take the train to Penn and then walk over to a subway, because I didn’t know otherwise.  Thankfully, I met up with some cosplaying friends.  I am okay with public transportation and I love taking the subway, but I get a bit panicky with the train.  In fact, I panic every time I have to take the train because I have been conditioned to always think I am going to miss the train.  Yesterday was no exception.  Thankfully, I brought breakfast with me which helped to calm down my twitching once I was on the train with 10 minutes to spare.

Work for the MTA!
Photo: Carlos Smith
Getting to Coney Island is quite easy actually.  It’s a very long ride for me.  It was an hour on one train, then another 30 on the second train, possibly an hour on the subway (maybe a bit less), of course there is waiting in-between trains and it’s a 30 minute drive to get to and from the train station. That’s a pretty long commute, but well worth it.

Having never been there before, walking out of the Coney Island station was like walking into a dream or a movie.  It’s nothing like any of the beaches we have out here on Long Island and a thousand times nicer then Atlantic City.  We are surrounded by beaches out here.  The north shore is rocky and the south shore is sandy but our beaches are just beaches with swing sets.  Some of our beaches have small boardwalks and live entertainment.  They all have food of some kind.  Many of the south shore beaches have been hit hard by erosion and it’s something I have lived long enough to witness.  Jones Beach was always my favorite because of how large it is, the activities and great food, but Coney Island trumped it!

I mention Atlantic City, just because I have been there, the amusement park and the boardwalk but I have never stepped foot onto the beach.  I am also always surprised by beaches that do not charge a fee.  I am so used to our beaches charging for everything.  There is no fee to go on the beach at Coney Island.

So the parade, I didn’t see a lot of the parade.  I am only 5’3” so I couldn’t see over the people, but when the crowds cleared a little bit my friends snuck me into the front so I got to see a portion of it.  It’s a great parade.  Seeing the creativity in the costumes was amazing.  I saw a girl dressed as a seahorse, a mermaid with a fish egg parasol, octopuses, mermen, walking seaweed, etc.  The creativity is phenomenal.  Beyond the creativity, the energy of the parade (and the crowd) is completely different than any other parade I have been too.  This is a celebration of the summer solstice.  It’s an art parade.  It’s origins are from Mardi Gras.   

Before the Mermaid Parade came to be 1983, Coney Island had an annual Mardi Gras parade that raised money for a Coney Island orphanage.  It even had costume contests.  That parade ran from 1903 until 1954 when the orphanage burned down.  Sad face.  The mermaid parade began in 1983 in tribute to the original Mardi Gras parade and now it’s the largest art parade in the United States.
Source: NY Daily News

Even though the crowds are large, they are completely manageable.  The only parades I have ever been to are local ones for 4th of July and Saint Patrick’s Day (I marched in Girl Scouts as a kid).  I think I might go to the 4th of July parade this year.  Maybe.

In a lot of ways the Mermaid Parade reminded me of being at a rave.  The difference being during the daytime and family friendly.  That’s the type of energy that was there.  I bet a lot of those mermaids were once party kids.  I do know quite a few cosplayers who once were ravers or gothic.

So I saw a bit of the parade and when we were all ready we made our way to the beach where we took some pretty pictures with fabulous photographers.  We had to be careful taking pictures because there is still quite a bit of cleaning up needed since Hurricane Sandy.  We found quite a few pieces of broken board walk floating around, many with nails in them.  We also had a little boy in our crew so keeping those boards away so that they didn’t become toys was important.  From what my local friends said the aquarium is still closed from Sandy damage as is a portion of the boardwalk and road.  The parade wrapped around onto the boardwalk this year because it could not continue down the street due to Sandy damage.  I have yet to visit the beaches out here so it was the first time I have seen any type of damage from Sandy in person.

Photo: Carlos Smith
However, the beach was amazing.  I don’t normally go into the water at the beach.  When I was 12, I was out far in the ocean wave surfing at Smiths Point with a friend.  We decided to get out of the water.  As we were swimming/running to the shore a large wave came in.  He got out in time.  I got hit by the wave.  Fell face first into the water, got pulled with the undertoe and felt like I was being buried alive in sand.   Even though I felt like I was completely pulled in and it seemed like a long time, I am pretty sure I just got pulled for a bit and got out.  I remember my friends staring at me in shock and being covered head to toe in thick sand.  I always hated using the beach showers but I had to because it was everywhere.  I have not gone into the ocean since then.  The Long Island Sound I have gone in, but not the ocean.    I usually won’t go very far into the water when at the ocean because I have a hard enough time standing in the sand with my feet a few inches in the water and not being unstable from the undertoe pull.  Coney Island though?  I was up to my knees easily.  No fear of falling over.  The waves were small, fun and not anywhere strong enough to knock me over at all.  I was dying to get into that water!  After running out into the water in costume I switched to my bikini and jumped in!  First time I have gone completely into the ocean in 20 years and without any fear.  I can’t wait to do it again!

I am still afraid of drowning though.  I have no fear of being thrown through the air or heights, but drowning yes.  Luckily, I do know how to swim.

NYCosplayers invade Nathans!
Photo: Carlos Smith
Anyway, after shooting on the beach and jumping into the ocean.  We headed over to Nathan’s!  Can’t go to Coney Island for the first time and not eat at Nathan’s!  I have been eating meatless for a good three weeks but I make exceptions and Nathan’s is an exception.  I also don’t normally eat hot dogs.  I have gotten sick from hot dogs many times but again it’s Nathan’s!  We had a Nathan’s by me when I was little.  It was in Coram by the now defunct United Artists movie theater.  It had an arcade in it.  Bonus!  Now Nathan’s exists at quick serve counters in bowling alleys and movie theaters.  I am a fan of mini corn dogs.  Anyway, after a long day I was starving.  Indulged in a cheese dog and a corn dog!  The line to Nathan’s was absolutely insane.  I don’t even want to think about how long we waited on that line.  It was worth it though.

I think it’s safe to say we all had a great day at Coney Island yesterday!  I can’t wait to go back!  I really want to go back and hang out in Luna Park, check out the Freak Show, ride Cyclone (I love rollercoasters), peek into the gift shops and spend more time on the beach!  We will also be back next year for the parade but we will be marching in it next time!

This was also my first event with the NY Cosplayers Network.  A lot of firsts happened yesterday and I can't be more thrilled.  I only wish we had gotten a picture with the whole crew not just the ladies.  Next time for sure.

Oh the other awesome thing that happened was I met another cosplayer who flys trapeze!  Now we have the three cosplay carnies that will be making a date to fly at Long Beach this summer!
Carnie love and gags.
Photo: Carlos Smith

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