Fair closes ‘Smallest Woman’ sideshow

LONGMONT, Colo. — A sideshow at the Boulder County Fair advertising “Little Liz, the World’s Smallest Woman” has been shut down after complaints.

The show featuring a woman from Haiti who’s 29 inches tall, or less than 2?½ feet, closed Thursday after two parents complained, The Times-Call of Longmont reported.

“There was kind of an ‘ick factor’ to it,” said Carrie Haverfield of the Boulder County Commissioners’ Office. “When I talked to our open space director and one of our county attorneys about it, we had the gut check of, ‘This is not the sort of use we want to encourage.’ … We just didn’t feel it was appropriate to a family show.”

Traveling carnivals used to rely heavily on sideshows, including sword swallowers and fire eaters, but rides have largely replaced them as tastes changed and a number of areas made “freak shows” illegal.

The New Mexico State Fair in 2008 canceled a similar exhibit featuring a 29-inch-tall woman after fair officials called it exploitation. “Tiny Tina” returned the next year after telling fair officials she didn’t think she was being exploited.

In Colorado, the owner of the carnival at the Boulder County Fair said “Little Liz” and her husband play about 20 events a year with his carnival.

“Her sitting on a chair for pictures isn’t any different than a guy dressed like Santa Claus sitting here for pictures,” Pat Crabtree said. “To me, it adds something to life, it’s good for them (Liz and her husband), and it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

He also argued that the complaint cut into Little Liz’s living for a few days.

“I wish there were more sideshows,” Crabtree said. “When people come back from a carnival, they should be able to say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere else.’ ”

Haverfield said it a no-win situation.

“Obviously, our goal is not to have anybody lose their source of income,” she said. But at the same time, the fair’s events needed to reflect what county residents considered appropriate, Haverfield said.

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