Friday, June 20, 2008

Before The Mermaids!

Photo courtesy of The Bowery Boys

The Coney Island event that marked the end of the season by giving it the grand finale was the island's original parade that drew on an average, from about a *quarter of a million spectators *and grew to a half a million, from 1903 to 1954. It was the Coney Island Mardi Gras Parade, which took place every September for about half a century.

The wonderfully fact filled website that takes you through New York's memory lane: The Bowery Boys pays tribute to this historic Coney Island tradition in time for this weekend's Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The current parade, a huge New York cultural event, pays homage to the Coney Mardi Gras parade. Conceived and created by Dick Zigun of the Coney Island USA organization, The Mermaid Parade
marches on this Saturday, June 21, 2008 at about 2pm.

The Bowery Boys writes:

Despite rampant (probably exaggerated) violence, the parade became the star of a wacky Fatty Arbuckle-Buster Keaton film, the 1915 'Coney Island'. It hit celluloid later in 1935 in the Popeye the Sailor Man short 'King of the Mardi Gras'.

By 1921, the parade had to deal with a new menace -- Prohibition. "
It was agreed that Prohibition had struck Coney Island a staggering blow." Many revelers dressed in costumes that "referred satirically to blue law advocates."

* 1913 and 1921 New York Times articles

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