By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Maybe we should call him Parade-Leader-in-Chief.
One week after becoming the first New York City Mayor to lead a Pride Parade, Bill de Blasio became the first mayor to lead the Mermaid Parade in costume when he marched down Surf Avenue dressed as a pirate with his wife and two kids in tow.
De Blasio wore a puffy pirate shirt and had a fake sword and his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their daughter, Chiara, wore blue and gold mermaid outfits. Son Dante was painted blue as he carried a trident. Dante and Chiara were tabbed as King Neptune and Queen Mermaid of the parade.
The parade, which was first held in 1983, celebrated its 32nd year on Saturday. While it was nearly canceled last year due to Superstorm Sandy damages, the parade went off without a hitch this season, with organizers reporting that there were over 100,000 people watching the more than 1,500 marchers in homemade costumes.
“I was in the original ones in the ’80s,” said Jean Balukus, who came with her mother Jingo Jo Balukas during the original parade. “I was a clown in clown alley. It was much smaller. You used to have to talk people into it and really twist their arm. You don't have to do that anymore.”
Although the parade takes place in Brooklyn, it draws people from all over the world.
“I think it's the kind of event that once you come once, you never want to miss it again,” said Cindie Leigh from Locust Valley. “My friend flew back from Abu Dhabi for this. It's an art event and an extraordinary visual. It's so rare to find the time to get all the people together where everyone is happy. It's pure joy. I will never miss it again.”
The parade is an homage to the Coney Island Mardi Gras parades that were held during the first half of the twentieth century. While the parade might have the reputation of being a mature-themed parade, each year it is a family event, with many children participating. In fact, the kids have as much fun as anyone.
“My favorite part is seeing the little kids dressed up as mermaids,” Alexis Troso from Long Island said. “You can just tell that some of them are having the time of their lives and they're going to want to come back every year.”