CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (PIX11) – After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Mermaid Parade returned Saturday for its 40th anniversary, bigger and better than ever, according to those marching and watching.

Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade is wacky and wonderful, dazzling and finned, semi-topless and risqué. The last official Mermaid Parade was held before the pandemic in 2019, so it was fitting that this year’s King Neptune was the former New York City health commissioner who led us through the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s a total honor to represent all of the health care heroes in public health who carried the city on their shoulders for the past two years,” said Dave Chokshi, the former New York City health commissioner.

Hundreds of thousands lined Surf Avenue to see the artistic and creative costumes. Jean Balukas remembers marching with her mother in 1983 as part of a group called Clown Alley.

“Forty years later, it’s bigger and better than ever, and we’re all clowns and mermaids,” Balukas said.

There were some unusual floats for unusual causes.

 “We believe that babies should not be circumcised,” parade marcher Anthony Losquadro said. “The intact body has a lot of powerful benefits. The four powers of foreskin: pleasure, protection, lubrication and connection. Why amputate when you can celebrate?”

And of course, there were those free-spirited, scantily-clad mermaids.

“It feels absolutely wonderful,” Maggie McMuffin, a semi-topless mermaid, said. “This is what Coney Island is all about. It’s about being free, having fun and being weird.”