By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The famed Coney Island Mermaid Parade, which has attracted a half-million people for each of the past few years, may have to be canceled this year because of damage from Hurricane Sandy.
To try to raise money, its parent organization, Coney Island USA, is starting an online Kickstarter campaign this Monday to raise $100,000.
The damage is not to the parade route itself, which is on Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, but to the headquarters of Coney Island USA, at 1208 Surf Ave. The building experienced severe flooding.
“My main priority is to save ConeyIsland USA [which also includes the Coney Island Museum and Sideshows by the Seashore], and if I have to not hold the parade one year to do so, that’ll have to happen,” said Dick Zigun, the founder of both Coney Island USA and the parade.
Even though the parade raises money from sponsorships, fees (from participants) and people who attend the after-parade Mermaid Ball, he said, it’s mainly a “people’s parade.”
It costs $190,000 to put on the parade, he estimated. Moreover, as the parade has grown larger, the costs of insurance and city permit fees have increased.
“The venue for this year’s Mermaid Ball is uncertain,” Zigun said. “Last year, we held it in the Aquarium.” The Aquarium itself sustained serious damage in the storm.
The Mermaid Parade is tentatively scheduled for June 22. “We’ve already begun collecting some registration fees,” Zigun said, “but if we have to cancel the parade, we’ll refund them.
“The city has already told us that if we have to cancel the parade this year, we’ll be able to hold it next year,” he said.
Zigun began the Mermaid Parade in 1983, when, he said, “the number of marchers exceeded the spectators.” Since then, its popularity has grown steadily. The parade is known for its floats featuring skimpily clad women, musical groups and antique cars.
Every year, a King and Queen are chosen, and past “monarchs” have included Harvey Keitel, Lynda Barry, Ron Kuby, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, David Johansen and Queen Latifah.