Mermaids on Parade

In reading the New York Daily Photo Blog, I happened to come across a post about the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to try and attend next time it happened. Being the awesome wife that she is, she kept her eye out for the date and let me know it would coincide with Father’s Day weekend this year. So we decided to get a two-for-one deal and go to NYC to see the parade.

We found out where it would start and that it would begin at 1400. So we decided to head out around 1300 and have some lunch on the way there. We ended up getting there at 1330 which was a little later than I wanted, so we didn’t make it all the way to the beginning of the parade. We ended up near the end right before the parade worked its way onto the boardwalk. This ended up being a fortuitous location. At first Danielle asked if we wanted to stay on the boardwalk. But none of the vehicular groups went up onto the boardwalk (of course they couldn’t) so we would have missed out on some of the most impressive floats. We also lucked out that we were kept from crossing the street to join Danielle’s mom because all the floats passed right in front of me — across the (wide) street from her. We had one final bit of luck in that we were amongst the last batch of people able to cross the street into that area. The police were keeping people off of the street for safety reasons.

The parade turned out to be spectacularly long — we were there for 3 hours and we left about a half an hour before it was over. The weather was perfect, if a little hot. I had three cameras with me — the Rebel XTi (400D) , Rebel XT (350D), and Holga 120CN. The Rebel XTi had my Canon EF 28-105mm. USM (discontinued) lens serving as the perfect zoom for 85% of the shots. The Rebel XT had my Sigma 10-20mm lens for those times when we were bum-rushed with dozens of parade people at once and it was impossible to capture them with the longer lens as well as being useful when the mermaids got extra close to me. It turned out to be the perfect lens combination and I didn’t regret the choice at all. Over those three hours I shot nearly 1200 photos combined between the digital cameras. I nearly used up all the memory cards I had — 11 GB total over the whole trip — most of it at the parade. I wasn’t the only one photographing the parade. I was surrounded by other photographers, mostly wielding Canons along with a couple of Nikons and obscure brands. In fact, it was rare to see anyone around me without a camera.

And now… enough naked words. Time for the photo essay.

The Mermaid Parade Begins
The Mermaid Parade started off as a Mardi Gras parade and eventually moved to coincide with the summer solstice. This makes for better parade weather in NYC.
The Regal Procession
Every year some famous people are crowned King and Queen of the Mermaid Parade. They are usually famous New Yorkers. This year it was Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson of The Velvet Underground.
Mermaid on the Moon
The floats range from extremely elaborate to simple and many groups are actually on foot. On average, most of the floats were small like this one and were pushed or carried. If you follow the link to my Mermaid Parade set (at the end of the post) you can see some of the more elaborate vehicles.
Rock On!
There were tons of performers on stilts. This guy was the most masterful as he ran around in the stilts.
Hungry like a Wolf
A big feature of any NYC parade, but especially the Mermaid Parade, is cross-dressing. The interesting thing is that a study of festivals throughout history shows that cross-dressing has always been a popular way to subvert the rules of life, even if it's just for a day.
Mermaid Survivors of the BP Oil Spill
The largest unifying theme of the parade this year was the BP Oil spill.
Stop Violence Against Mermaids
Lots of participants marched with signs against BP's handling of the gulf coast oil spill.
Join the Navy!
Sailors were also a major theme of the parade.
Giant Blue Creature
This is an example of some of the hand-carried floats.
Pearls
Although women have had the right to go topless in NYC since 2002, many of the participants stopped at pasties rather than be fully topless.
Oil Addict
Yet Another BP Oil Spill themed participant.
The Most Disturbing Darth Vader Ever!
There were also a few mergings of pop culture during the parade. But none were as strange as this group's merging of Hello Kitty with Star Wars.
Strategic Shark
Perhaps because so many people focused on the oil spill, completely original and off the wall costumes like this one weren't as common.
Free Hugs!
New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. I've found that most of the time New Yorkers are actually very nice. They simply tend to be impatient and sometimes remind me of online forums. This woman went all along the parade route hugging anyone that allowed her to.
Hello
A few of the participants focused on glamour designs, but it wasn't too commons this year.
Andy Warhol:  Campbells Soup Top
A large contingent of Andy Warhol themed participants reinterpreted a lot of his artwork in pretty neat ways such as this Campbell's Soup Top
Searching for the Enemy
Of course, just as common as sailors in a sea-themed parade were pirates.
Death Up Close
Another great example of the huge creativity on display at the parade.

For more (and there are a lot more) photos from the Mermaid Parade, see my flickr Mermaid Parade 2010 set.