Monday, February 28, 2011
Gibsonton, Florida: "Freakville" USA
For over two centuries, circuses, carnivals, traveling wild west shows, and street fairs were common fixtures of Americana. Touring the countryside from spring to fall, they brought their unique–and often, bizarre–line-up of fire-eaters, contortionists, lion tamers, and high-wire acts to the far reaches of America. For many living in rural areas of the nation, these rolling venues elicited the excitement of a rock concert, Disneyland, and a trip to Time Square all rolled into one. And while for many it was the Big Top headliners most deserving the “oohs” and “ahhs” and adulation, for others it was the sideshows, or second acts, that offered the greater fascination. These so-called “freak“ shows, as they came to be commonly known, provided onlookers a glimpse of the world’s oddities; those individuals most unlike themselves (or so they appeared). These strange individuals–billed as having come from the far corners of the Earth–came in two general types: natural born freaks, and man-made freaks. But the one thing most so-called “freaks” had in common was that when they weren’t on the road, they spent the winter months in one place: Gibsonton, a small town in Hillsboro County, Florida, long referred to as Showtown, USA. Read more . . .