Exclusive: Behind-the-Scenes of Coney Island’s Annual Mermaid Parade

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Two weeks ago, thanks to our friends from Otto’s Shrunken Head, Flavorpill had the chance to take part in the construction of a float for the Mermaid Day Parade — an annual event which launched back in 1983 and is now the country’s largest art parade. After the jump, find our behind-the-scenes account of what it takes to have a successful showing at Coney Island (in spite of the weather) and view our slideshow of images from the rain-soaked festivities.

First of all, kudos to the folks at Coney Island U.S.A. who put this party together every year. It’s a Herculean task for a non-profit arts organization to pull off, so support them through the summer by enjoying one of the multiple programs they put on for your benefit. Side note: Somehow they convinced Harvey Keitel to be this year’s Grand Marshall.

Step one to creating a float is coming up with a big idea. Our jumping off point: “giant octopus.” As we were representing Otto’s Shrunken Head, we figured we’d make it an “Ottopus.” Funny, right? We bought supplies. We made a frame. We slapped on paper mache. We painted it. We thought we were done. And then it started to pour.

Working in the rain was difficult, but we used tarps, overhangs, and basically whatever we could to get ‘er done. On the day of the parade our task was to get a giant “Ottopus” strapped to the hood of a Volvo all the way from Chinatown to South Brooklyn (a good hour-long drive) in the pouring rain while avoiding major highways. Miraculously we got our sopping wet sea creature to the staging area on Surf Avenue, but it weighed a ton.

Not the types of folks to ever say die, the Otto’s crew rolled up their itchy fins, tentacles and scales, and made the monster come to life for the surprisingly large turn out (remember, we were still in the middle of a thunderstorm). It was exhausting, but well worth it. After wringing out our sequins, glitter tails, fishing nets, and pink wigs, we skipped the official afterparty at the Dreamland Roller Rink and ended the day by the boardwalk for restorative raw clams and beer at Ruby’s Bar instead.

The gang from Otto’s took home second prize for their float back in 2007, but they weren’t so lucky this time around. The winner’s of this year’s contest can be found here; you can catch more video and photos from the parade here.