WILKES-BARRE PA – The Annual Sideshow Gathering — the world's only sideshow convention — returns to northeastern Pennsylvania with its unique and shocking blend of weird, wonderful, and wacky entertainment. From November 4th through 6th, the strange
takes center stage when showmen and genuine sideshow freaks from across the country descend on Wilkes-Barre's The Woodlands Inn & Resort to celebrate the giddy thrills of the carnival sideshow. Over the course of three days,
many of today's best sideshow performers will walk on glass, swallow swords, eat light bulbs, put hooks in their eyes, attempt to break a world record for the largest simultaneous ten-in-one sideshow, and otherwise risk bodily harm for
the sake of twisted entertainment. The Sideshow Gathering is the premier networking event for performers, fans, collectors, and historians. The Sideshow Gathering has steadily drawn increased attendance year after year, and is an unsurpassed weekend of gasps and laughs.
This year, the Sideshow Gathering’s 10th anniversary, is especially poignant as it also marks the passing of its founder Franco Kossa, who died suddenly last May. With Franco’s tragic death the future of the Sideshow Gathering looked
uncertain, but a dedicated group of friends, performers, and volunteers have worked steadily to ensure the event will continue this year in grand style. “Franco himself will be present, in spirit and body,” said artist James Mundie, who has
designed a special memorial banner to be unveiled at the Sideshow Gathering. “Franco’s ashes will preside over the event, and patrons will have a unique opportunity on Friday night to ‘visit’ with them. I don’t want to give too
much away, but it’s perfectly appropriate for this event and Franco would have loved it.”
Attractions at the 10th Annual Sideshow Gathering will include:
The weekend's emcees, Tyler Fyre and Thrill Kill Jill of The Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow — named “Best Sideshow Duo” by Washington
City Paper; FreakShow Deluxe, Hollywood's own and only carnival-style sideshow; Coney Island Chris,
the hilarious one-man ten-in-one seen on America's Got Talent; Philadelphia's Olde City Sideshow, featuring Danny Borneo, Martin Ling the
Suicide King, Reggie Bügmüncher and special guest GiGi Holliday of Baltimore's Sticky Buns Burlesque; the incomparable Harley Newman, professional
lunatic; Cheeky Monkey Sideshow, featuring Swami Yomahmi, Sally the Cinch, Mab Just Mab, and tantalizing guest Cherríe Sweetbottom;
Keith Bindlestiff, co-founder of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and alter-ego of presidential candidate Kinko the Clown; Knotty Bits Sideshow,
and many more! Additionally, vendors such as Col. Hunsley's Freaks and Oddities and James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! will display genuine freak
animals, memorabilia, rare books, and original show banners. Step right up to the Sideshow Gathering for a weekend of entertainment and diversion you will never forget!
Concurrent with the 18th Annual Inkin' The Valley tattoo convention at Wilkes-Barre's The Woodlands Inn & Resort, the Sideshow Gathering begins at 3:00 PM on
Friday, November 4th, with live sideshow performances starting at 5:00 PM. The convention floor opens again at noon and performances will resume from 3:00 to 6:00 PM and 10:00 to 11:00 PM on Saturday, followed by a special auction of original
art and rare carnival and circus items. On Sunday, there will be encore performances from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. Admission for the entire weekend is only $15.
"Legacy isn't the first word that comes to mind when you think of sword swallowers and fire eaters and people who eat broken glass,” said James Taylor, publisher of the journal Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway and someone who has
attended the Sideshow Gathering from the beginning, “but it was for the late Franco Kossa when he created the annual Sideshow Gathering, and that yearly convention has shown for a decade that Kossa's heart was in the right place when he had legacy in
mind. Hey, I told him not to do the Gathering when he first came to me about it, and his reaction was perfect: ‘Yeah, but...’ And he did it. We're all in debt to him."
Ten years ago, tattoo business owner Franco Kossa wanted to add sideshow entertainment to his annual convention, Inkin’ the Valley. These art forms shared a common history, so it seemed an ideal pairing. “Tattooed people have been exhibits forever,”
Kossa said. &lqduo;Sideshow history and tattoo history are conjoined.” However, at the time the popular acceptance of tattooing was on the rise while sideshow was on the decline. It was while talking with legendary showman Ward Hall, co-owner of the World of
Wonders, about the wholesale disappearance of sideshows from America’s fairgrounds that Franco hit upon the idea of starting a convention for sideshow performers. The idea was that for one weekend a year showmen and carnies from across the country could
gather to ‘cut up jackpots’. It would be like the old showman’s clubs, but the public would also be invited in. From those humble beginnings, the Sideshow Gathering – the world’s only sideshow convention – was born and in
time became a much anticipated annual calendar event for veteran showfolk and a training ground for the next generation. Tim O’Brien of Ripley’s Entertainment and Ripley Radio said, “I come every year to find new talent for Ripley’s. This place is a
cornucopia of oddities and bizarre acts!”
“Frank was a generous and loving man who created for this group of people a haven where once a year we could gather… to share the love of our different lifestyle, and our respect for one another,” said Ward Hall, who was himself once
honored by Franco Kossa at the Sideshow Gathering with an Ambassador of Wonder Award for his many decades in the sideshow industry. “Through his compassion for those who wished to present themselves to the world in unusual ways, Frank provided a method for us
to gather together and get to know him and each other as no one else was ever able to do… I expect that he is now working to assemble a Sideshow Gathering in Heaven for all our people who have gone on before us.”
Kossa’s dedication to this art form has proven that public interest in sideshow is in fact alive and well. Over the years, the Sideshow Gathering has attracted a great deal of media attention – especially for the world records that were set there
for mass sword swallowing and human blockhead – and attendance has steadily increased year after year. The 2010 incarnation of the event was the most successful to date, and seemed to indicate that the 10th anniversary in 2011 would be its best year yet.
But then in early May 2011, Franco Kossa suddenly died and the fate of his beloved event seemed to be in jeopardy. Franco Kossa’s widow, Kim, was left with mounting debts and a considerable ‘nut’ to cover for Inkin’ the Valley.
If the Sideshow Gathering was going to continue, it was going to need help. “The Sideshow Gathering for Franco meant bringing something he loved to his home town and sharing it with those around him,” said Kim Kossa. “Cost didn't matter, he
just wanted to share the fun. It also was about bringing like minds together. Sideshow acts are on the road so much, they rarely get a chance to see other acts and be among their peers.” Like a big extended family, friends and volunteers stepped in to
lend a hand, the most visible effort being several benefit performances held during mid-October in Washington DC and Baltimore under the name “Seismic Sideshow” that helped raise much needed funds to cover the expenses of putting on
“I believe in the afterlife here on Earth,” said Tyler Fyre of the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, “that a person lives on through the deeds they did, the lives they touched, and the legacy they leave. Franco lives on through the Sideshow
Gathering, and by bringing us all together each year his legacy will live forever.”
The LUCKY DAREDEVIL THRILLSHOW is a fast-paced, funny, death-defying daredevil stunt spectacular with all the glitter, glamour, and gut-wrenching thrills of a Vegas show. Guaranteed to please, amuse, and amaze audiences of all ages! Hosted by silver-tongued devil TYLER FYRE, and the darling of danger, THRILL KILL JILL!
Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow kick off the weekend of entertainment at 5:00 PM on Friday, November 4th!
CONEY ISLAND CHRIS
Photograph of Coney Island Chris by Jim Moore
CONEY ISLAND CHRIS has made it his mission to keep the age old traditions of the sideshow alive! He will astound and entertain by demonstrating some of the most beloved and historical sideshow stunts ever presented including sword swallowing, placing his hand in various animal traps that will slam shut on his exposed fingers, lying on a bed of nails, driving a 10-inch spike up his nose, stomach stapling and many more… all with his special comedic twist!
Mixing equal parts funny and freaky, “Coney Island Chris” Allison draws on a rich history of traditional sideshow feats of human strength and endurance popularized on circus midways and along the boardwalk at Coney Island. Chris's performances are as shocking as they are sidesplitting and are not recommended for the faint of heart. His unique brand of comedy chaos has become a popular attraction at nightclubs across the country and he was featured on the hit television show America's Got Talent where he made it to the quarter-final round of the competition.
Coney Island Chris learned many of his amazing sideshow skills from some of the original performers who popularized the acts on midways across the country. Chris has taken all of those amazing skills and put his own demented spin on them and created a comedy performance around nearly a dozen classic sideshow stunts.
Entertainment blogger and recent audience member Andrea Reiher described Chris as a “terrifying Jerry Lewis”. Reviewer Walt Hudson said that “Chris's sideshow parody left the audience breathless and gasping with laughter”. Dramatic, daring, dangerous, droll and absolutely a 100% authentic and unique performance that you will not soon forget. Coney Island Chris comically crosses the line — wherever you draw it!
CHRIS ALLISON performed for 11 seasons with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Post Ringling Chris has toured the US and abroad with smaller circus shows, as well as fairs and festivals. His performances have taken him from Beijing to the Bronx, Scarsdale to Sweden, and from Hong Kong to Hoboken. His most recent travels have taken him to Liuzhou, China, for their International Clown Festival. TV credits include: MTV's Oddville, The Jenny Jones Show, and Late Night with David Letterman.
Coney Island Chris will perform three times at the Sideshow Gathering: Friday, November 4th, Saturday, November 5th, and Sunday, November 6th!
Hollywood's own and ONLY carnival-style sideshow presents it's founder (and the man called “the best Talker on the West Coast”), the Reverend Tommy Gunn, with his lovely paramour, Miss Malice
Aforethought, in their second appearance at the Sideshow Gathering! Sponsored by Lucky 13 Apparel, and winner of the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival's award for Best Cabaret/Circus, FREAKSHOW DELUXE has appeared all over the United States — from Coney Island U.S.A. in New York, to Hollywood's exclusive private club for illusionists, the Magic Castle, and every place in between.
With numerous appearances on television, and live shows ranging from biker rallies to tattoo festivals, from amusement parks to fairs, theaters to nightclubs, and college campuses to corporate events — wherever there is an audience, FREAKSHOW DELUXE is there with its dark vaudevillian extravaganza that keeps spectators coming back for more.
FreakShow Deluxe will perform the night of Friday, November 4th!
OLDE CITY SIDESHOW
If it were 100 years ago, the OLDE CITY SIDESHOW would be traveling the southern states scaring the backwoods, toothless masses with their acts of the grotesque and
macabre. Sword swallowing, face nailing, bug eating, bed-of-nails laying, creepy organ music playing, scream inducing and always entertaining, the Olde City Sideshow is an act for the ages. Not exactly all ages, but the ages anyway. Come watch, be disturbed, and
have your funny bone tickled by their unique brand of comedy stuntacular!
The troupe consists of DANNY BORNEO, MARTIN LING the SUICIDE KING, and REGGIE BÜGMÜNCHER. Based in Philadelphia, The Olde City Sideshow has performed all over the United States. Recently, Olde City Sideshow represented Magic Hat Brewing
Company, appeared on the cover of Carny Sideshows, and opened for Primus.
For the Sideshow Gathering, Olde City Sideshow will also perform with two very special guests: Baltimore belles GIGI HOLLIDAY of Sticky Buns Burlesque and MARIA BELLA of Gilded Lily Burlesque, who bring a little bit of strip and a whole lot of tease!
Olde City Sideshow will perform the night of Saturday, November 5th!
KEITH “BINDLESTIFF” NELSON — a.k.a. Mr. Pennygaff and Kinko the Clown, is co-founder of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and stars in the new reality series The Bindlestiffs. He has been performing his unique blend of circus skills and sideshow feats for nearly 20 years. He is willing to go where no others have before (usually with good reason). His performances at the 2011 Sideshow Gathering may include the Kendama Blockhead and the deep throating Wheel-o. He also expects to spin tops and sell you candy.
Keith Bindlestiff will perform twice at the Sideshow Gathering: Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th!
CHEEKY MONKEY SIDESHOW
Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to witness the most amazing show your eyes have ever beheld!
CHEEKY MONKEY SIDESHOW is a dazzling troupe of professional, experienced performers specializing in astounding feats and amazing oddities — sword swallowing, fire eating, extreme physical stunts (human blockhead, bed of nails, glass walking), contortion, magic, mentalism, escapes, human and animal anomalies, comedy, and more.
They have been hailed as “unusually good” by The Washington Post and "top notch" by Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway.
Members of Cheeky Monkey Sideshow have been featured on ABC News, National Geographic Channel, the film Step Right Up, Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, The Gong Show, and the book Carny Sideshows by Tony Gangi.
Attending the Annual Sideshow Gathering this year are SWAMI YoMAHMI, TRINKET, MAB JUST MAB, SALLY THE CINCH, and possibly THE DARWIN SISTERS.
For the Sideshow Gathering, Cheeky Monkey will also be joined by special guest CHERRÍE SWEETBOTTOM!
Cheeky Monkey Sideshow — You'll be Amazed. You'll be Amused. You'll be Just a Little Bit Grossed Out.
Cheeky Monkey Sideshow will perform the evening of Saturday, November 5th!
As a baseball team mascot, HARLEY NEWMAN lit firecrackers under unsuspecting umpires. In the circus, he was clown, sideshow talker, and special assistant to the manager.
Since the mid-1980s, Harley has focused on stunts and escapes, discarding traditional presentation styles while adding verbal, physical, and prop comedy. He's been widely emulated.
Harley pushes the boundaries of stunt performance. He was rejected by the Guinness Book of Records, as “too dangerous to publish”.
Harley has appeared on over 200 television shows worldwide, and viewed by approximately a billion people. His television credits include The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular. He's appeared on hundreds of college campuses, and has been a featured entertainer at theme parks. Harley's newest show, Dancing With Ghosts, was featured in the 2009 NY International Fringe Festival.
Harley Newman will perform during the afternoon of Sunday, November 6th!
The MAGIC of STEVE HYDE and MELANIE
STEVE HYDE AND MELANIE have been performing a wide variety of illusions and escapes together for the last seven years. They have played at fairs, carnivals, amusement parks, and for The Circus Fans of America.
For the 2011 Sideshow Gathering, Steve and Melanie will be performing selections from their new show MIND MELT.
The Magic of Steve Hyde and Melanie will perform on Sunday, November 6th!
KNOTTY BITS SIDESHOW
Rusty blades, bullwhips, broken glass and hundreds of mousetraps... What do these things all have in common? They are the packing list for one of the most unusual shows on the market: THE KNOTTY BITS SIDESHOW!
Most accurately described as “George and Gracie on speed”, the sideshow danger and aerial cirque duo of Gwyd the Unusual and the lovely Sylver Fyre perform traditional sideshow acts and high flying stunts with a healthy dose of humor.
Since 2004, they have done shows for all sorts of clients, from MTV and Nine Inch Nails to the Food Network and Chrysler. This multiple world record holding duo has traveled North America from top to bottom amazing and amusing young and old alike wherever
The Knotty Bits Sideshow will perform on Saturday, November 5th!
PROFESSOR FOUNTAIN presents a cabinet of wonder that combines stunts,
escapes, and variety arts with tales about artifacts gathered from ancient Egypt up to tomorrow's science fiction. Recently, Professor Fountain has been working to
entertain and inspire by reviving old vaudeville acts such as chapeaugraphy and paper tearing.
Professor Fountain will do walk-around performances all weekend!
CRISPY FAMILY CARNIVAL
Now in it's 10th year, the CRISPY FAMILY CARNIVAL is an authentic troupe of sideshow performers preserving those traditional acts
that were kicked out of the American circus during the era of political correctness. The difference between a magician and a sideshow performer is that a magician relies on tricks while a sideshow performer relies on his or her own strength,
endurance, and downright insanity to perform body-bending acts, guaranteed to shock and enliven. This is real, live entertainment that includes Mr. Crispy, a highly trained Coney Island graduate, Acoustic Ross, one of the funniest
musicians this side of the Mississippi, and Tangy Tart, who has been singing, dancing and performing in theater since the age of 12. Their lighthearted approach to the macabre has made audiences across the nation gasp with horror and squeal with delight.
Mr. Crispy will perform on Saturday, November 5th!
THE BRUISE BROTHERS! The biggest performers in sideshow... literally! This gigantic duo will astonish you with amazing feats of Stupid Human Strength. Come watch Dash Black and his brother from another mother Elvis Blues as they push all their muscles
beyond their limits. Endure the pain of unbelievable torture. Contort their bodies in ways two gargantuan men should not be able to do.
Dash and Elvis established themselves performing various characters at Renaissance festivals all over US. They each have experience with escapology, stage combat, whip cracking, glass walking, fire eating, and other sideshow skill sets. Both natives of Maryland,
it wasn't until 2010's Inkin’ the Valley Convention that The Bruise Brothers finally came together. The team is very excited that they will be debuting a brand new show for this event.
The Bruise Brothers will perform on Friday, November 4th!
James Taylor's SHOCKED AND AMAZED! ON & OFF THE MIDWAY
JAMES TAYLOR is the premier writer on the cutting edge of sideshow, the new vaudeville, the “other entertainment”! James Taylor is the man behind James Taylor's SHOCKED AND AMAZED! ON & OFF THE MIDWAY — the world's only journal devoted solely to the entertainment explosion in the weird, bizarre and unusual!
James Taylor is the planet's foremost authority on sideshow. You saw James Taylor and Shocked and Amazed! on The Learning Channel's Sideshow: Alive on the Inside, The Jerry Springer Show, Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel, and Fox Television's Fox Files.
You read about James Taylor on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in Publisher's Weekly, New York Press, and Johns Hopkins Magazine.
James Taylor knows sideshow and its stunning new wave of entertainers. Sword swallowers, fire eaters, regurgitators, human pin cushions, torture kings, contortionists and motordrome riders look to James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! as the definitive source for all things strange and bizarre: All things sideshow.
James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! views the sideshow tradition through a modern lens. Shocked and Amazed! features tell-all interviews with performers and showmen who have never been interviewed on the record. Shocked and Amazed! reports on weirdness as entertainment, features exclusive reprints on sideshow history, and reveals behind-the-scenes photos of sideshow attractions.
COL. DARREL HUNSLEY has traveled the world collecting the most outrageous and unusual anomalies and oddities. You'll see things that shouldn't be.
Step right up for a close look at Nature's Mistakes!
RIPLEY RADIO ODDCAST
The Sideshow Gathering proudly welcomes back TIM O'BRIEN of RIPLEY RADIO, who will be recording all weekend for the next Ripley Radio Oddcast and scouting talent for Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley Radio — An On-Demand Oddcast picks up where Robert Ripley left off 64 years ago. For the first time since Robert Ripley signed off his CBS Radio Show in 1947, Ripley's Believe It or Not! is back on the airwaves with a new weekly, hour-long program. Ripley's new radio hour is a journey through the weird, wacky, whimsical, wild, and totally unbelievable world of the odd, strange and unusual.
Each show provides listeners with amazing and absolutely true tales of today as well as unbelievable facts culled from the extensive archives of the company that has been freaking out families for more than 90 years! “Robert Ripley loved telling his stories through mass media,” notes O’Brien. “He was both a radio and television pioneer throughout the 1930s and 40s. I’m sure he would have been a pioneer on the World Wide Web as well.”
In 1997, TONI-LEE SANGASTIANO of SIDESHOWBANNERS.COM , painted her first set of sideshow banners for Coney Island's Sideshows By The Seashore and the Coney Island Museum. Over a decade later, Toni-Lee Sangastiano has painted countless banners and other sideshow-themed paintings for top performers and collectors of sideshow and circus memorabilia. Major commissions include the Shelburne Museum, in which Toni-Lee created a forty-by-fifteen foot bannerline for their Circus Day In America exhibition.
“When I have an image in my mind's eye that needs translating from concept to tangible artwork, Toni-Lee is undoubtedly who I turn to. She's able, like no one before her, to seemingly capture my thoughts and dramatically put them to canvas. Perhaps equally stunning is the relative speed that she's able to do this in, all-the-while thriving on the commissioner's feedback to produce meticulous pieces of both promotion and art. I'm proud to say that her work graces both my home and my office. And, as icing on the cake, she's an absolute pleasure to deal with... one of those rare people that you just LOVE to have around!” — Matt The Knife
“I have the pleasure of owning several of Toni-Lee Sangastiano's Banners. It has been one of the Greatest experiences I have had collaborating with her on each project. Each banner is a Work of Art and represents each piece in my Sideshow collection Wonderfully. What more can I say except, WOW!” — J.R. Robinson
“Hey, the banner looks more like me than I do. Impressive!” — George the Giant, sword swallower
SIDESHOW GATHERING QUOTES
In creating the Sideshow Gathering, Franco Kossa founded a showmen's club for the modern day sideshow performer. For one weekend a year, we all get together to reunite with old friends, show off, perform our greatest hits, swap road stories, and remember the reason that got us all started in this business is that sideshow is Fun! — Tyler Fyre of Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow
The Sideshow Gathering is a one-of-a-kind cavalcade of astonishing talent, history, and artistry. It's the only place in the country where you can witness such a range of practitioners, both old and new, of a form of entertainment that is the very definition of extraordinary. You are guaranteed to see things that you never imagined, and will never forget. — Stephon Walker (a.k.a., Swami YoMahmi)
The shows are mostly gone from carnivals as are all the old showmen's clubs, and it's the era of the new vaudeville, the new burlesque, the new sideshow, the new variety entertainment. And before just a few years ago, those showfolk had no such clubs, no such associations, no such home. The annual Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes-Barre is the showmen's club for all of variety's future. — James Taylor of Shocked and Amazed!
We live in a day and age of multimillion dollar special effect entertainment be it Pirates of the Caribbean or Vegas. However, there is nothing like being in the small audience of a real sideshow and feeling the heat from the torch of the fire-eater, watching a glass eater's act knowing there is no trick photography, knowing that the performers have real tattoos that don't wash off. No other entertainment can match the sideshow for that. — Dick Zigun, founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, and recipient of the Sideshow Gathering's 2006 Ambassador of Wonder Award
The Sideshow Gathering is the Switzerland of this illegitimate entertainment. It provides a neutral ground for some of the most entertaining egos to gather. It is the only place on Earth where you will get tired of watching someone nail a spike directly into their head. — Keith Nelson of The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
I'm still humbled by the other performers and the different ways that they present their acts to the public. For my opinion, we as performers are a family. — Sword swallower Red Stuart
The Side Show Gathering is a must for all aficionados of human oddities and performers of the strange and weird! Today's performers of the unusual entertain and amaze. Yesterday's ‘greats’ share past history and experiences with newcomers. It's a three-day adventure like no other I know. — Walt Hudson in Circus Report
It is Christmas, your birthday and your first kiss all rolled up into one great weekend! The Sideshow Gathering is the greatest gathering of freaks (and the folks who love them) in the history of entertainment. If you're a fan of the odd, bizarre and unusual — or if you just plain love a good time — the Sideshow Gathering is the place to be! — Kathleen Kotcher, editor of Shocked and Amazed!