The tradition of the Coney Island Mermaid
Parade began in 1983, when the first event of this kind was conceptualized
and organized by Dick Zigun, who is sometimes dubbed the "Mayor of Coney
Island", and who was the founder of the non-profit arts group Coney
In August 2009, the town of Kiryat Yam in Israel offered a prize of $1 million for anyone who could prove the existence of a mermaid off its coast, after dozens of people reported seeing a mermaid leaping out of the water like a dolphin and doing aerial tricks before returning to the depths. The prize has not yet been awarded. In February 2012, work on two reservoirs near the towns of Gokwe and Mutare in Zimbabwe stopped when workers refused to work there, claiming that mermaids had hounded them away from the sites. The claim was reported by Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Water Resources Minister.
Founded in 1983 by Coney Island USA, the not-for-profit arts organization that also produces the Coney island Circus Sideshow, the Mermaid Parade pays homage to Coney Island's forgotten Mardi Gras which lasted from 1903 to 1954, and draws from a host of other sources resulting in a wonderful and wacky event that is unique to Coney Island.
According to Dorothy Dinnerstein's book, The Mermaid and the Minotaur, human-animal hybrids such as the minotaur and the mermaid convey the emergent understanding of the ancients that human beings were both one with and different from animals.
The Mermaid Parade is an art parade, not
a showcase for naked girls.
There’s always at least one little girl’s
birthday party marching in the Parade.
For centuries, in Japan and other Pacific island countries, female Ama divers would swim nude searching for shellfish. These divers slowly developed the ability to hold their breath for long periods of time and to survive in cold water that would kill most people from hypothermia. Women make better divers than men because of their physiological advantages in tolerating cold. After surfacing they would hyperventilate to restore their oxygen levels which would make a loud sighing sound referred to as the isobue or "sea whistle" or in Japanese as the "song of the sea". They needed to rest periodically and so after diving, as aid to maintaining lung capacity, these women frequently would sing loud songs and this may have been the origin of the Siren myth. Source: Wikipedia.
Coney Island is made up of Russians, African Americans, Hispanics and West Indians. As of 2000 census, there were 51,205 people living in Coney Island.
Of those people, 40.3% were White, 44.2% were Black or African American, 18% were Hispanic or Latino, 3.8% were Asian, 0.5% were Native American, 0.1% were Pacific Islander, 7.6% were some other race and 3.7% were two or more races. 70.5% had a High School degree or higher, 20.7% had a Bachelor's degree or higher. The median household income as of 1999 was $21,281.
In 1915 the Sea Beach Line was upgraded
to a subway line, followed by the other former excursion roads, and the opening
of the New West End Terminal in 1919 ushered in Coney Island's busiest era.
It is plausable that ancient sailors might have encountered these divers and assumed they were not human because of their ability to withstand the cold water and to submerge for several minutes at a time. There were laws restricting poaching in the sea so local village people would have had an interest in propagating and reinforcing the Siren and Mermaid myths to protect the divers and their wealth. The tradition of women divers has been documented in many other countries outside of Asia. In fact, many of the early artistic depictions of mermaids showed normal human women with legs rather than the typical fish-tail of the modern mythical image.
Since the 1920s, all property north of
the boardwalk and south of Surf Avenue was zoned for amusement and recreational
use only, with some large lots of property north of Surf also zoned for amusements
One influential image was created by John William Waterhouse, from 1895 to 1905, entitled A Mermaid, (see the top of this article). An example of late British Academy style artwork, the piece debuted to considerable acclaim (and secured Waterhouse's place as a member of the Royal Academy), but disappeared into a private collection and did not resurface until the 1970s. It is currently once again in the collection of the Royal Academy.
In the mid 1980s, businessman Horace Bullard approached the city to allow him to rebuild Steeplechase Park. He had already bought several acres of property just East of the Steeplechase Park site, including the property with a large coaster called The Thunderbolt and property west of Abe Stark rink. His plans called for the combination of his property as well as the Steeplechase property and the unused property on the Abe Stark site as a multimillion-dollar theme park based on the original.
The city agreed and in 1986 the state legislature approved the project. However, several bureaucrats
held up the project for another two years while the NYC Planning Commission
compiled an environmental impact report. In 1987, state senator Thomas Bartosiewics
attempted to block Bullard from building on the Steeplechase site. Bartosiewics
was part of a group called The Brooklyn Sports Foundation which had promised
another theme park developer, Sportsplex, the right to build on the site.
Construction was held up for another four years as Bullard and Sportsplex
fought over the site.
Movie depictions include the comedy Splash (1984) and "Aquamarine"(2006). A 1963 episode, The Cruelest Sea, of the television series Route 66, featured a real mermaid working at Weeki Wachee aquatic park. Mermaids also appeared in the popular supernatural drama television series Charmed, and were the basis of its spin-off series Mermaid. In Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature (2001), two carnival workers abduct a mermaid in Ireland, circa 1900, and attempt to transport her to America.