Once billed as the strangest town in America, Gibtown (as it is known to residents) was the final refuge for America’s fading carnival culture. During the Depression and the days of the ten-in-one sideshows that featured live human oddities, carnival and circus folks wintered in this part of the state. As most carnivals replaced human exhibits with amusement rides, games and food stands, Gibtown kept this unique piece of history alive and well.
In 1949, the famous Al Tomaini, a nearly 9 foot giant, retired from the road and settled in Gibsonton with his 2 foot tall wife, Jeanie the “Half-Girl”. The giant and his wife started a trailer park and fishing camp. The world’s strangest couple was soon followed by other circus acts: Priscilla the Monkey Girl, the Lobster Boy, and Dotty the Fat Lady.
As more misfits arrived, Gibtown started a post office with a special low counter for midgets; a produce market run by Siamese twins; a police department whose chief was a giant; and the Showman’s Lounge that featured nightly entertainment with a man who hammered 6 inch spikes up his nose.
Today, most of the famous freaks have died, but their descendants still live there. If you pass through Gibtown, take an hour to drive the main road and through the neighborhoods. You’ll see rusty parts left over from amusement rides, concession trailers, and exotic animals. The Giant and the Half-Girl are gone, and chances are you won’t hear the Fat Lady sing, but there is a special nostalgia to Gibtown if you like cotton candy, amusement rides and strange exhibits.