BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Sea-lovers of all ages donned a colorful array of costumes, fins and floats and strutted down the newly refurbished boardwalk during Rockaway Beach’s inaugural Poseidon Parade on Saturday.
The parade is the brainchild of the Rockaway Mermaid Brigade, the reigning Motorized Float champions at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade for the past two years. After representing the Rockaways for years at the iconic parade, the group was inspired to bring the fanfare and festivities to the shores of Queens.
“We’re honoring the ocean and artistic expression, like we experience each year in Coney Island,” wrote parade co-founder and 2015 Queen Mermaid Casey Brouder. “Poseidon is a symbol that speaks to the resilience of Rockaway. After all we have been through as a community, we can pay homage to the strong and beautiful ocean we can’t seem to live without.”
Adults and children masquerading as mermaids, sea creatures and pirates participated in the parade, with special prizes awarded for Best Bike, Best Baby Carriage and Best Pet. A post-parade celebration featuring face-painting and a DJ was held at the Beach 95th Street plaza.
The Poseidon Parade also included a tribute to Whalemina, the beloved whale sculpture and symbol of the Rockaways that was washed inland and shattered along Shore Parkway at the height of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
A large inflatable version of Whalemina was created by artist Geoff Rawling and anchored to a grassy spot near the boardwalk at Beach 95th Street for the duration of the parade. Parade goers posed for photos and were encouraged to sign the big balloon as a tribute to Whalemina.
Rockaway Beach residents Nicholas Rowe and Joshua Southerton are part of a group working to raise funds to replace the Whalemina sculpture. The new whale would also be created by Rawling, who also refurbished and redesigned the original Whalemina after she was brought to Rockaway Beach in the 1990s from the Central Park Zoo where she was previously known as Jonah.
“We’re trying to raise $20,000 so that we could have a new, permanent whale,” Southerton explained. “Once we do, we’re going to dismantle this whale and make it into a permanent mural for Rockaway Beach.”
Both Southerton and Rowe explained that they each still have a small piece of the original mosaic Whalemina sculpture found near their homes after the storm. Local author Laura Cryan even wrote a children’s book in Whalemina’s honor with artwork by Rawling.
“There’s been a whole lot of fundraising efforts,” Southerton added. “We’re really trying to pull the community together and bring back our whale.”