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Sunday, January 9, 2011

In 'Gibtown,' Life Is A Carnival
Gibsonton was famous as a sideshow wintering town, where various circus "freaks" would spend the off season. Showtown reasturant and lounge harkens back to a more colourful time.
By THOMAS BECNEL,
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Published: March 3, 2008
GIBSONTON - In the carnival capital of the world, a clown rides to Wal-Mart on a tricycle.
Ferris wheels rise out of backyards. Cotton candy booths line the streets. Bags of stuffed animals spill into a trailer park.
For generations, carnies have wintered in Gibsonton, called "Gibtown," in south Hillsborough County.
They eat and drink at the Showtown Bar & Grill. For business, they visit the annual trade show of the Showmen's Association. When they die, they wind up in a local mausoleum called Showmen's Rest.
Lots of carnies retire in Gibsonton, population 8,700. For those still traveling, it is a place for repairs and reunions.
"I just ran into a man that I haven't seen in seven years," said Jeff Vannortwick, 41, who works for Louie's Fun and Games. "There's a saying in the carnival: 'You meet everybody twice.'"
Once on the road, and once in Gibsonton.
Gibsonton straddles a bleak stretch of U.S. 41 just east of Tampa Bay. To the south is Apollo Beach, marked by the quadruple smokestacks of a huge power plant. To the north is Riverview, where twin phosphate mounds dominate the landscape.
In between, there are bars, bait shops, boat stores, food marts, thrift shops, Gomez Tacos, G-Town Auto Repair and First Baptist Church.
"It ain't the carnival town it used to be," said John Curtis, 78, an entrepreneur. "People died off."
The last to go, in late January, was Chuck Osak, owner of the Showtown Bar & Grill. A sign out front read: "Thank you, Chuck. We'll miss you."
Mourners included Little Pete Terhurney, 78, a 3-foot-tall carny and town mascot.
READ MORE AT:http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/mar/03/022244/me-for-the-carnies-gibtown-is-just-home-sweet-home/news-breaking/

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