Tipping the Scales at Asbury Park’s Promenade of Mermaids

At Asbury Park’s annual Promenade of Mermaids, the costumes are fin-spirational.

Lillie McCurdy, 4, of Jackson enjoys the show.
Lillie McCurdy, 4, of Jackson enjoys the show.
Photo by James J. Connolly

I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with mermaids. I love the ocean, I have amazing hair, and I too—on occasion—desire to drag men to the bottom of the sea. When given the opportunity to walk among the merpeople, I jumped at the chance.

Modeled after the famous Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids started three years ago and already attracts hundreds to the boardwalk. Landlubbers of all ages trek from near and far to parade in full mermaid regalia—or to watch. Vendors sell treats and ocean-inspired merchandise. Local bands and dance troupes perform. At the conclusion of the promenade, prizes are awarded for the best costumes.

Prizes aside, the boardwalk fills with winning, colorful characters. Last year’s event brought out promenaders with bodies painted in ghastly blues and greens. Others used makeup to sketch scales and barnacles across their skin. Some wore netting or crowns crafted of seashells atop elaborate wigs. There were mythic characters, recalling the fearsome, sharp-fanged sirens who lured sailors to their doom. One mermaid alarmingly appeared to have a fishing hook through her cheek.

“I’m more like a siren from the reef than a mermaid,” said Derri A. Galor of Matawan, gesturing at her ensemble. Galor was flaunting a shiny black corset and red sequined bra. Black, seaweed-like netting tumbled over her hair and shoulders. “I’ll sing to you,” she warned, “but then I’ll eat you for lunch.”

Beyond merpeople, the boardwalk was awash with pirates, assorted sea creatures and waves of excited kids. One father and daughter devised a joint costume: he a fisherman, she a mermaid caught on his line. Many costumes were modeled on the ubiquitous Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

Paola Leconte of Brooklyn, dressed in glittering gold sequins, was crowned the Mermaid Queen, the event’s highest honor. Leconte is a lover of parades, but this was the first time she had dressed up for one. She was not expecting to win.

“I’m looking to move out here,” she said after capturing her crown.

As for my costume, I’ll admit it was not up to the high standards set by other promenaders. This, despite four hours of hot gluing seashells and pearls to my bare-midriff ensemble. Never mind. I’ll do better this year.

The third annual Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids swims ashore on August 26; registration starts at noon and the parade begins at 2 PM. There is no cost to walk in the promenade, but you must pay a $5 fee to enter the costume contest. For more information, visit their website.

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