Gibsonton, Florida – Gibsonton, Florida - Atlas Obscura

Gibsonton, Florida

Gibsonton, Florida

The snowbirds here are circus sideshow performers. 

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An unincorporated census-designated place in Florida’s Hillsborough County, that is only home to about 8,000 people, Gibsonton is known as a sideshow wintering town, or a place where many circus performers and sideshow operated spend the off-months when not touring the United States.

Gibsonton was once home to Percilla the Monkey girl, the Anatomical Wonder, and Grady Stiles Lobster Boy. Siamese twin sisters ran a fruit stand in the town and, at one point, Gibsonton was home to the only post office in the country with a counter short enough for dwarves to use.

But why did all of these people flock here? Aside from the agreeable winter climate, Gibsonton offered unique circus zoning laws that allowed residents to keep elephants, circus trailers, and other show paraphernalia on their property.

The town is still used by circus members over the winter months, but outsiders are often not welcome. The sideshow workers and circus talent find that many come to gawk and stare and they have not taken kindly to that behavior. The town received much attention because it was written about in newspapers and magazines, and also has become a popular go-to in various forms of media. Dean Koontz’s book “Twilight Eyes” featured a character who sought refuge here; a 1995 episode of the “X-Files” was set here even though it was filmed in Vancouver; and the town served as inspiration for “Kaleidoscope”, a novel by Darrell Wimberly.

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