Imagine a town where everyone has run away to join the circus. That's what it's like to live in Gibsonton, Florida, home to all manner of circus sideshow performers since the 1940s. During the town's heyday, its population included some of the most renowned sideshow acts in history: Al "The Giant" Tomiani, and his wife, Jeanie, "The Half-Woman;" Melvin "The Rubber Faced Man" Burkhart; Grady "The Lobster Boy" Stiles; Percilla, "The Monkey Girl;" and the conjoined Hilton sisters. Even today, with the town's better days well in the past, Gibsonton is full of circus performers who are just going about their daily lives.
Gibsonton didn't start out as a haven for circus freaks. It originally housed fisherman and those who worked at the nearby lumber company. But by the 1940s, the year-round beauty of Gibsonton started to attract snowbird sideshow performers who were looking for a welcoming place to spend the off-season. Just a 20-minute drive from Tampa, Gibsonton is one of the strangest and most fascinating towns in America.
Let's take a peek at life inside this one-of-a-kind community with some facts about Gibsonton Florida, its history, and the people who call it home.
Gibsonton Was Once Home To The World's Most Famous Sideshow Acts
The Post Office Was Specially Designed For Little People To Use
Circus Performers Still Spend The Winter HerePhoto: Freaks / MGM
There Is A Retirement Village For Aging Circus Performers
Outsiders Are Not Always Welcome
It's Home To The International Independent Showmen's Association and Museum