GC and I went to the Carnivale Lune Bleue at Hog’s Back on Wednesday night. It was a last-minute decision and we were late so we just got the general admission Midway tickets.
For the record, it’s not a very wheelchair accessible venue; we struggled a lot to maneuver my wheelchair around. To their credit, when we asked about their wheelchair discount policy, they said they didn’t have a policy but they’d start one right now. And they gave us two tickets for the price of one ($15).This carnival attempts to recreate the 1930s style of carnival, which featured freak shows. I’ve got a special place in my heart for freak shows. I’ve read a few books about them and about the ‘freaks’ who worked the shows and were exploited by them.
Freak shows were so politically and socially incorrect by today’s standards.
Essentially if you were so disabled as to draw stares, you could either stay hidden away at home or you could get a job acting in a freak show. But you didn’t just stand around like an animal in the zoo and let people stare at you – you exaggerated yourself and acted a role. If you were a bearded woman, maybe you acted like a gorilla. If you were Siamese twins, maybe you fought with each other.
The freak shows, in spite of their awfulness, did make it possible for people with disabilities to create communities, and ironically, a sense of normalcy. Where everybody’s a freak, nobody’s a freak. They usually lived together and traveled together with the circus or the carnival.
Back to Ottawa’s Carnivale. The $15 ticket doesn’t entitle you to much. We saw the snake show, which was kind of cool even though we’d seen it last year at the Carp Fair. GC got to hold a scorpion. I stroked a python.We visited the tiny museum tent, which had a few contraptions like a bed of nails, and a Jersey Devil and a Turtle Boy, along with photos of vintage freak show acts.
There was also a silent auction of circus photographs. The bidding started at $150 per print two weeks ago, but nobody has bid on any of them yet. (I think the opening bids were set too high.)
There were two vintage midway rides you could go on: a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. Since we had a wheelchair, we weren’t really in a position to do that.That’s it for the free stuff. Everything else cost extra. For example, there was a fortune teller for $30 I think. There was a woman who would guess your weight (no thank you) for a small fee. There were a handful of games of limited skill. GC paid $2 to throw darts at stars, in the hopes of winning a Betty Boop doll. There was a small ‘world of wonders’ for $3. I would have done that one if it had been wheelchair accessible.
I’ve heard that the two big shows (Stringer for $60 and Starback for $80) are worth the money, but I can’t say the same for the Midway tickets.