Blood, sweat and success

Dayton Sideshow celebrates a decade

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Dayton Sideshow music coordinator Todd the Fox performs with assistant music coordinator “Queen” Victoria Harper at Sideshow 8; photo: Jennifer Taylor

At first glance, Dayton is not a place where anyone would imagine one of the largest art communities in the U.S. to reside. But block for block, this unassuming city has a fantastically thriving art community that makes even New York City pale in comparison. One of the artistic cornerstones of this impressive community is the Dayton Sideshow. A grassroots organization comprised entirely of volunteers, it is hailed as the “Artistic Energy of Dayton” and it is growing by leaps and bounds.

Dayton Sideshow was originally founded in 2006, by local artist Laurana Wong, who had the idea to have an art show that was free and open to the public. Other artists loved the idea and together they decided to make the show an annual event, with each year getting bigger and better than the previous year.

Now in its tenth edition, the Sideshow found its first home in the Cannery building in downtown Dayton. It was a trade of sorts, since to use the facility, it first had to be cleaned out and fixed up. The intrepid volunteers didn’t let that deter them in the least and in no time, filled a 30 foot dumpster with debris and had the place looking brand new. Not only did they fix it up, but the volunteers also built a stage, lighting and all, and created beautiful wall fixtures for the artists to display their work.

All of their hard work paid off, and within just two years, the show had become such a huge success, it needed a larger location. From 2008 to 2010, the Dayton Sideshow needed to expand several more times; finding homes in the Merc Building, the Old Unicorn Bar and the Armory on the corner of Sixth and Patterson. Today, the Yellow Cab building is the happy new home of the Sideshow. With lots of space both indoors and out, as well as two beautiful outdoor stages, this new venue purchased by a Sideshow volunteer has a wealth of potential both for the Sideshow and for other events as well.

“The Sideshow is the cherry on the cake of the Yellow Cab building,” volunteer coordinator Todd the Fox says.

The Dayton Sideshow is a bold, inventive two-day event that inspires and captures the hearts and imaginations of even the toughest skeptics. Presented in an interactive and fun festival atmosphere, this community art event boasts over 40 musical acts, 50 to 80 artists and a number of comedians and performers as well as vendors of all kinds, including food trucks and local craft brews on tap. Artists and performers are often on hand to discuss their work and help out with the event. The performers and volunteers are proud of all they’ve accomplished and with good reason. Not only have they had nine very successful events, but the level of professionalism and cooperation is topnotch.

Todd stresses, “Safety and security is paramount. We always have EMS and security there and we’ve never had any real issues.”

With that security and safety however, comes a price tag. Since the Side Show is run “For the community by the community” and does not accept sponsorships of any kind, volunteers need to raise money through other means.

Shortly after its inception in 2006, volunteers began meeting and discussing ways they could raise money for the event. After much research and discussion, the group formed the Dayton Circus Creative Collaborative in 2007, which would serve as the backbone for the Side Show. Today, the Dayton Circus Creative Collaborative hosts a number of fundraisers that are not only affordable for the general public, but that also serve as a meeting place for creative minds. For those more technical-minded than creative, there is talk of an intriguing “FabSpace” Maker-space co-op that would give members access to several 3-D printers, a CNC machine and other tools to make their inventions and ideas come to life. The money received from the fundraisers helps to pay for heat, lighting, security and a number of other expenses that go along with putting on such a fantastic public event.

“Your money makes art and music happen,” says Jeff Opt, Sideshow Music Coordinator.

The theme this year is “looking back and looking forward.”

Dayton Sideshow X certainly has a reason to truly look forward to a bright future this year.

Dayton Sideshow X will be held Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9 at the Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. Fourth St. For more information about the event or to volunteer, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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Lisa Bennett
Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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