Gibtown Showmens Club

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By Chandra Broadwater, St. Petersburg Times staff writer

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please.

The International Independent Showmen’s Association proudly presents one of the few carnival museums in the country. Location? Across the street from the group’s headquarters in Riverview.

The Showman’s Museum in Riverview has been a work in progress for seven years.

The Showman’s Museum in Riverview has been a work in progress for seven years.

It has been years in the making. With more money to complete the project in the organization’s coffers and the right zoning in place, the professionals who travel the country setting up Ferris Wheels and Tilt-A-Whirls look forward to having a place to document their own past.

“A lot of people call carnivals the circus,” said Ivan Arnold, president of the showmen’s group. “But it’s not. The circus has a big tent. We’ve got the rides.”

In a world where the luster of winning giant stuffed animals has dimmed, the organization thinks it’s more important than ever to preserve the past.

This gang of carnies plans to get back on their way to completing the museum, located near Palmer Street and Riverview Drive. They have been working on the building, now a concrete shell about 52,000 square feet, for nearly seven years.

The goal is to have it finally complete in another two years. Visitors can expect to pay some sort of nominal fee to enter the museum, but the showmen still have to make a final decision, said Jim Elliot, the association’s secretary.

Elliott said the group has spent about $900,000, and needs another $2 million to finish it. With about half that amount raised, they continue seeking contributions.

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