'For lovers of the strange and unusual'
By Melissa Gill | Las Vegas, NV | Oddities & Curiosities Expo
“Anyone who loves Halloween, horror movies and thrillers [and that are] into the alternative horror culture will love our show. I try to have something weird for everyone,” says Michelle Cozzaglio, the other half of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, which was founded by her and her husband, Tony Cozzaglio.
For the first time, the Oddities & Curiosities Expo travels to Las Vegas for their upcoming show on Saturday, September 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Expo at World Market Center. Tickets cost $10 online and $15 at the door. The convention offers a safe space for “the strange and unusual” to connect and shop around at 150 local and national vendors selling rare, peculiar items.
Everything from taxidermy to quack medical devices to Halloween-inspired art will be offered at this expo. The event includes an option for attendees to participate in their Jackalope Taxidermy class (which is almost sold out) and watch classic circus sideshows. Michelle also notes that she is a vegan and that “all the animals in the taxidermy class and other parts of the show–like preserved specimens–are sourced ethically and died of natural causes.” Everything about this event is unique and intriguing, especially as the spooky season grows closer.
Unusual Vendors, Sideshows and a Taxidermy Class
While the show features vendors from all over the country, this event also includes some Las Vegas creators that cater to collectors of weird decor and bizarre items. Local vendors participating in the expo include: Dealer of The Dead–offering macabre crafts, Dark to Decor– specializing in ethically sourced preserved insects and taxidermy and Avantpop’s Books & Art Gallery–selling a collection of rare and unique books.
Fans of classic circus freak shows also get a chance to watch hair-raising performances by Bazoo the Kloun and Brent Fiasco. Kloun is a “pain proof world record holder.” His acts include barbed wire and staple guns. Fiasco delivers a “one man show” which showcases his “controlled chaos” through “juggling, flesh defying stunts, and grown-up slapstick delivered in a comedic style.” Both artists perform shocking stunts that guests will have to see for themselves to really believe it.
Another peculiar part of the expo is their Jackalope Taxidermy course which is taught by Heather Clark of Sleeping Sirens & Oddities. This is an all day, in-depth lesson held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that includes breaks for lunch and time for wandering around the convention. The class costs $120 and includes all the materials needed plus admission to the expo. Those who participate in the class learn enough that they could go home and apply what they learned to smaller ethically sourced animals if they wanted to, explains Michelle. She says that, “Personally, I’m not a huge taxidermy collector, but I find it intriguing.” The origins of this macabre festival are also very intriguing.
The Makings of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo
“My husband and I both grew up in a music subculture. We were really into punk and hardcore. [We] had been organizing events where we live in Tulsa, Oklahoma since 2013. We’ve been doing events for a long time like The Punk Rock Flea Market which was kind of like Oddities, but more focused on music. Over time, we’ve had some oddity vendors and I’d keep building my collection of weird stuff.”
Michelle’s interest in the punk and dark arts subculture sparked the idea of devoting an entire show to the bizarre aspects she showcased in her punk shows. Originally, she just wanted to buy and experience cool stuff where she lived, she says. Then, her vision expanded into something bigger. She didn’t expect Oddities to take off the way that it did. The show started out only being held in two cities back in 2017 and the show will travel to about 20 cities this year. She says that she knew from the beginning that she didn’t want to work for anyone else and so she fully committed herself to her shows.
“My biggest goal with the show is to just keep growing it and keep going. I want to prove that this isn’t just a fad. This is a culture that will continue on. Our community is a huge family [and] all of these people travel with me everywhere.”
On Collecting Creepy and Rare Memorabilia
When it comes to collecting creepy items, Michelle says, “The first kind of weirder thing I started collecting were postcards. But I only collect, still to this day, postcards that have been written on from when postcards were a thing, which is like from the last part of the 1800s and until only 1915. I am obsessed and find it so intriguing to find old postcards and read what people wrote to each other. And I have some really morbid [ones] like someone telling someone that a family member’s passed away.”
Her collecting interests change over time, she says. “Whether it’s collecting records or collecting human skulls, it varies. As I’ve gotten older, my tastes have changed and my personal love for collecting [and] alternative culture in general.”
Although she loves collecting, what really makes her happy and emotional is that her shows bring like minded, offbeat individuals together from all over the country.
“Never being in a city before and then bringing thousands of people together that all share the same interests [to a] place that they can come to [where] it doesn’t matter if they’re weird or have blue hair or piercings, and [then] discover their new favorite artist or buy taxidermy or something they don’t see everyday makes me emotional. That’s a memorable moment at each show for me.”
On Bringing Oddities & Curiosities to Las Vegas
Previous expos usually focused on the midwestern region, but this year they are excited to bring the show out west. Regular attendees and vendors were asked which cities they wanted the show to visit and Michelle says she was flooded with requests for a show in Las Vegas. She’s only visited the city once for a musical festival when she was younger, so she’s really looking forward to bringing it to Vegas this year.
“For years now, a lot of people have said to come to Vegas. I’m really excited. It’s a hard year to try a new city. Pre-COVID we typically had anywhere from 7-9,000 people. Right now, I definitely don’t expect that. I am just happy to be working. I look forward to returning again in a more normal time when people feel better about going to a large event.”
Although it’s challenging to hold large events at this time, Michelle emphasized how important it was to her to arrange everything so that it follows COVID safety protocols to keep everyone safe.
“Our floor plan and how we set up the room is specific [so that it is] able to maintain social distance [guidelines]. All the vendor booths are set up with dividers in between them and their tables are spread out. Besides [implementing] social distancing, masks are required during the show. Of course, there will be sanitizing stations all throughout the hall.”
Although proof of vaccination is not required, the event is taking COVID protocols seriously and following CDC guidelines. Ticket times are staggered to help provide a more comfortable shopping experience rather than a crowd of people all arriving at the same time. For this event, they will utilize a QR code that gives guests access to a digital map of the expo and includes a directory with all the vendors’ websites. The health and safety of everyone involved in these events are the top priority. Michelle says she’s worked with “health departments all over the country” to implement COVID guidelines and has received positive feedback from participants. However, the event also sparks a sense of hope by unifying everyone together again.
“Everyone was just so happy to be able to be together again and be able to support small businesses and artists. I think it really means a lot to people and especially this year, they are so happy that they are all already ready to come back again next year. I hope that it’s the same kind of vibe in Las Vegas.”
For more information about the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, visit their website.
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