The Boulder County
Fair has shut down the "Little Liz, the World's Smallest
Woman" sideshow at the carnival after two parents complained
to county authorities.
advertising the chance to see and photograph a 29-inch-tall
woman from Haiti, was closed Thursday evening. The first
complaint came in Thursday afternoon.
"There was kind of
an 'ick factor' to it," said Carrie Haverfield of the Boulder
County Commissioners' Office, who took that call. "When I
talked to our open space director and one of our county
attorneys about it, we had the gut check of 'This is not the
sort of use we want to encourage.' ... We just didn't feel it
was appropriate to a family show."
Though the county
owns the fairgrounds, the county commissioners' office has no
direct authority over the fair, which is run by the Boulder
County Fair Board. But when county officials asked to close
the event, the fair board agreed.
to this is now the woman is out of work and unable to pay any
medical or living expenses for those three days," said fair
coordinator Laura Boldt.
She added that the
board was surprised that commissioners wanted it gone after
one complaint. (According to Haverfield, a second complaint
call was later made directly to a county commissioner.)
"I guess we didn't
see it as a big deal," Boldt said of the exhibit. "But the
carnival was willing to work with us."
including not just "oddities" but also sword swallowers, fire
eaters and other attractions — used to be a staple of
traveling carnivals but have largely been replaced by rides as
tastes changed and a number of areas made "freak shows"
29-inch-tall-woman exhibit featuring "Tiny Tina" was evicted
by the New Mexico State Fair in 2008, with fair officials
calling the act exploitation. She was allowed to return to the
event in 2009 after she wrote fair officials to say she didn't
consider herself exploited.
The carnival at
the Boulder County Fair is owned and run by Crabtree
Amusements. Owner Pat Crabtree said "Little Liz" and her
husband (who translates for her) play about 20 events a year
with his carnival as contractors, spending the winter in
"Her sitting on a
chair for pictures isn't any different than a guy dressed like
Santa Claus sitting here for pictures," Crabtree said. "To me,
it adds something to life, it's good for them (Liz and her
husband), and it doesn't hurt anyone."
He also argued
that the complaint was costing Little Liz a living for a few
days, and asked if the person who made the complaint planned
to buy her dinner.
"I wish there were
more sideshows," Crabtree said. "When people come back from a
carnival, they should be able to say, 'I've never seen
anything like that anywhere else.'"
the situation a no-win.
goal is not to have anybody lose their source of income," she
said. But at the same time, she said, the fair's events needed
to reflect what county residents considered appropriate.
"In both cases,
they were parents who were with their children," Haverfield
said. "They both said their children were very disturbed by
it. That's not the type of activity we want to see happening."
Sept. 8, 2014
Article by Scott Rochat