Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Ah, the unexpected. Photographically, it’s de rigueur at the small rodeos of the West, whether it be those in the crowd, the cowboys, the cowgirls or the children. Honestly, while this project is about much more for me than novelty, it’s what often keeps me coming back to each and every backwater event I can find. This image is case-in-point.

Let’s be honest. Clowns really scare some people (I had a PhD committee member who was among those affected), so when I saw this inflatable house at the Gosper County Fair and Rodeo, its old paint and eerie face staring out at the crowd, I… Simply. Had. To. Shoot.

In 1983, the traveling carnival slated to appear at the fair failed to show, and the town residents took matters into their own hands by starting an independent event. Now, over 5,000 people attend the 3-day festival, increasing the town’s population tenfold. The carnival is staffed by volunteers, and owned by the community. And that means the worker bring their own interesting habits and surprises.


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