Sideshow Adds Thrill of the 'Unusual'
weirdness a matter of perspective according to 'curator'
Five-legged sheep? Check.
Guy who eats fire? Check.
There's no bearded lady, but
the sideshow at MontanaFair still has plenty to offer.
"They're different from all the normal animals," said 10-year-old
Cassidy Mascarena, of Billings, as she examined the attractions
inside America's Largest Sideshow and Museum of the Odd and
Unusual on the midway Thursday afternoon.
No kidding, Cassidy.
Nothing is quite "normal" inside the sideshow tent, but that's
just because we're not used to it, said Jim Zajicek,
self-described "curator of the unusual."
"The only thing that's unusual about them is that people aren't
familiar with them," Zajicek said. "We see these animals every
day. They're like our pets."
There are 30 exhibits inside the sideshow tent, some living and
some preserved. Admission is $3."
It's creepy," said Lee
Stevenson of Silesia. "Oh, my God, a two-headed baby." Only three
of the 30 attractions are fake, according to Zajicek, but he
politely declined to reveal which ones.
"It's more fun to try to figure it out than me telling you," he
Even the fake exhibits hold a certain value they are gaffs,
or items created decades ago to be displayed in sideshows during
the pastime's heyday.
The sideshow has a rich history in the United States. Carnivals
were once anchored by human and animal "freaks," but as midways
began filling with lucrative rides, the oddities were edged out,
Today, there are five banner-front, or multiattraction, sideshows
operating in the country, he said.
Still, fairgoers haven't lost their taste for the weird.
don't change," Zajicek said. "The only thing that's changed is the
politically correct came in. People still want to see the strange,
unusual and bizarre no matter how you package it."
Zajicek's sideshow has only one human exhibit Mephisto the
Master, a professional fire-eater.
He also pounds nails into his nose.
"I should have graduated college in 1970," said Meph-isto, who
lives in Powell, Wyo. "Instead, I flunked out and became a
fire-eater. I don't regret it."
Early in his career, Mephisto, who is deaf, worked sideshows with
human "freaks," including a giant and a bearded lady.
People who think sideshow
attractions are being exploited have it backwards, he said.
"They're the ones exploiting the public," he said.
DIANE COCHRAN The Gazette Staff -
The Gazette Staff -
Article submitted by
Jim Zajicek Big Circus Sideshow
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
Other Side Of The