ODD­I­TIES & CURIOSITIES EXPO BRING­ING BACK THE WEIRD

Tulsa World - - Scene - By Jim­mie Tramel

Once upon a time, you could ex­plore the fair­grounds and see — for lack of a bet­ter term — weird­ness. In ad­di­tion to rides and car­ni­val games and corn dogs, the Tulsa State Fair mid­way was pop­u­lated with odd­i­ties.

You could step in­side a tent and visit Quee­nie the Bearded Lady. Or you could watch Ab­dula, who, ac­cord­ing to a decades-old Tulsa Tri­bune story, made his liv­ing ly­ing on a bed of nails, walk­ing on bro­ken glass and climb­ing a lad­der of swords.

It's a dif­fer­ent world now. Fam­ily-friendly mid­ways all over the coun­try have been cleansed of sideshows. No one wants to be ac­cused of ex­ploit­ing those with unique traits.

But odd will be back in vogue at the fair­grounds for one day.

The 2019 Odd­i­ties & Curiosities Expo is sched­uled Satur­day, Feb. 23, in­side Cen­tral Park Hall at Expo Square. Billed as an event for lovers of the strange and un­usual, the Odd­i­ties & Curiosities Expo is the brain­child of Tul­sans Tony and Michelle Coz­za­glio.

“My hus­band and I are into punk mu­sic, and we or­ga­nize a bunch of punk-re­lated events and so we have al­ways been into just dif­fer­ent, strange, un­usual-type things,” Michelle said.

Their ex­pe­ri­ences led them to this ques­tion: Wouldn't it be awe­some if there was an event that fo­cused on the strange and un­usual?

The risk in stag­ing a show­case of the odd is it may have only niche ap­peal, which means a lim­ited au­di­ence and lim­ited chances for suc­cess. Odd­i­ties & Curiosities Expo When:

Where: Cost: Info:

“Hon­estly, when­ever we first started, we didn't think it was go­ing to be that big, at all,” Michelle said.

“We just thought, `Oh, I like this stuff, so we will see.' But I think the strange and un­usual re­ally piques peo­ples' in­ter­est — even peo­ple who don't even col­lect or any­thing like that. They just think, `Oh, it sounds weird. I want to check it out.' ”

They test-drove their first Odd­i­ties & Curiosities Expo in Tulsa in 2017. They fol­lowed with a show in Den­ver. They tried a few more cities in 2018. And the turnouts have been sig­nif­i­cant enough that the Coz­za­glios are tak­ing the show to 16 cities in 2019. Stag­ing a home­town show will give them a chance to rest up for pend­ing road trips.

At­ten­dees can ex­pect to see lo­cal and na­tional ven­dors and all kinds of items that might fit into the cat­e­gories of strange, weird, creepy and un­usual.

“We have sideshow per­form­ers, so they can see some­one swal­low swords and walk on glass and all the crazy sideshow stuff,” Michelle said.

The aim is to have some­thing for ev­ery­one. Art. Hal­loween col­lectibles. Hor­ror mer­chan­dise. Jewelry made from in­sects or bones. Odd­i­ties for “se­ri­ous” col­lec­tors. Even taxi­dermy classes.

Michelle said ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent view of what is strange and un­usual. Some­times peo­ple es­tab­lish bound­aries they don't want to cross. For the squea­mish, you've been warned: Body sus­pen­sions (peo­ple dan­gling by way of their pierc­ings) will be part of the expo.

“A lot of peo­ple don't like it, but it's also re­ally in­trigu­ing to some peo­ple, too,” Michelle said. “If you don't like it, you can avoid it. We al­ways put it in the corner, so you have to go over to it (to find it).”

You can check an on-site map if you want to avoid the corner.

As you might ex­pect, Michelle is a long­time fan of Ri­p­ley's Be­lieve It Or Not. She said VIP tick­ets for the expo will in­clude free passes to a Ri­p­ley's Be­lieve It or Not at­trac­tion in the U.S.

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Michelle and Tony Coz­za­glio are the Tul­sans be­hind the Odd­i­ties & Curiosities Expo, sched­uled Feb. 23 in­side Cen­tral Park Hall at Expo Square.

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