This weekend will see the Oddities & Curiosities Expo landing in the River City for the very first time. Just how weird will it get? Ash Griffith gives us a preview of what we can expect to find lurking at the Greater Richmond Convention Center this Saturday.
Richmond is a mighty odd place. From the stolen military tank that drove jauntily down Broad Street a few years ago to flying saucer-like Markel Building to the legend of Dirtwoman, we thrive on the weird and obscure. It only makes sense for The Oddities & Curiosities Expo to make a pit stop in the River City on its 2021 tour.
The Expo was founded in 2017 by Michelle Cozzaglio and her husband Tony, who are no strangers to a good gathering. They had already been doing successful punk flea markets in their home state of Oklahoma. As long-time collectors of oddities and obscure memorabilia, they realized that, at the time, there really weren’t any larger scale expos focused on this specific niche. They decided to give it a shot and attempt to bring other like minded collectors together.
“[Kansas City was] the first city where people I didn’t know came to my event,” said Cozzaglio. “That event had almost 10,000 people come to it. It was crazy.”
The Oddities & Curiosities Expo provides a dark and spooky wonderland for all that your strange and unusual heart desires, an array even Lydia Deetz herself would be mighty proud of. Whether it’s taxidermy, preserved specimens, original horror and Halloween-inspired art works, or unique medical devices, the expo provides a little something from every column between A to Z for everyone to enjoy.
In the early stages of planning for the following year, which take place around Halloween, would-be vendors look for an announcement about applications for the next year’s convention. That’s when the Oddities & Curiosities Expo figures out who’ll be at each stop on the tour. And while the expo brings in vendors from all around the country, they try to make sure the local area is well represented.
“We love to have all of the locals out,” said Cozzaglio. “It’s important for us to get the locals in, and then get those who are dedicated to traveling in. We have people coming from California to Richmond. It’s crazy.”
As with anything else that existed in the world during 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the event. Only a few events were held last year before the big shutdown.
“For 2020 we had 22 events planned across the country, and we held four,” said Cozzaglio. “We got creative with how to support the vendors, [such as] a YouTube channel. We did a lot of blog features; we did what we could to generate revenue for the vendors still. For us, we focused on merchandise [such as] shirts that had our 2020 dates on them… which did not happen.”
Among the precautions being taken this year in order to ensure that the gathering, taking place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, is as safe as possible are: a constant flow of air into the halls to create heightened circulation; additional crew assigned to clean surfaces and restrooms extremely frequently; and sanitization stations placed throughout the hall. Per CDC guidelines, masks are heavily recommended, though fully vaccinated participants do not have to wear a mask. For unvaccinated attendees and participants, masks are required.
On another note, the expo wants to make clear that any animals seen in the show are sustainably sourced. No animals were harmed in order to create the taxidermy you will find on display.
“All of the animals — taxidermy, preserved specimens, etc — died sustainably or ethically,” said Cozzaglio. “Nothing is killed for the sake of our show. That is really important to me, something that I drive in with the vendors, and look through their sourcing when they apply.”
While there will be many different vendors for the public to meet and greet at the event, that isn’t all there is to do. The expo will also be featuring a taxidermy class with Heather Clark, owner of Florida-based Sleeping Sirens. The class fee is $210. This fee not only covers entry into the expo itself, but gains participants access to sustainably sourced materials and information for reference.
“The class this year is a jackalope,” said Cozzaglio. “Heather provides everything you need to make your own jackalope. It is super involved, [and] you are truly learning the basics of taxidermy, where you could do a small animal yourself. Next year we are doing a two-headed duck. It’s going to be so much fun.”
The 2021 edition of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo comes to the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Saturday, August 14, from 10 am until 6 pm. Tickets for entry are $10 (children under 12 are admitted free), and will be available at the door. They can also be purchased in advance from the Oddities & Curiosities Expo website.