Preview: 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Three participants in the outrageous annual carnival give us a preview.

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  • Photograph: Carl Saytor

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"It warms my fins to think about the Mermaid Parade. This year will be my 20th [time participating]. I don't know what my costume or float will be; I usually design it in May and build it in June. Last year I went as a Deco-inspired mermaid and was awarded best float. I've also rocked a sea turtle, a hot air balloon and a purple lam couch [float], to name a few. I never plan to go all out, but there's a certain momentum once I get started."—Kate Dale, prop supervisor at the Juilliard School

"The Mermaid Festival [is also held in] Nigeria [where I'm from]. [In the Coney Island parade,] my brother Waleg is the chief priest of the parade [and] does the incantations. As an artist, I [handle] the entertainment, costumes and overall plans for the festival. I dress up in regular colorful mermaid regalia with a fishtail, long eyelashes or traditional African [elements]. Waleg wears a T-shirt, a wrap around his waist tied in a knot and a feather inserted in a tiny piece of cloth tied around his head."—"Princess" Pat Muko, musician

"I have been in the parade for 17 straight years. I was the official Queen [in 2006], the year Abel Ferrara was King. I have a different costume each year, so I have quite a few tails. I never seem to be able to resist making something brand new, especially for the parade. Eventually I had costumes in reserve, so now I have a lot of sea-creature costumes that have never been worn. Last year I was planning to be an octopus, but then went in a different direction at the last minute. I think I will [incorporate] pink this year—I have a huge wig picked out."—Bambi the Mermaid, Coney Island Circus Sideshow performer

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