From desperate teenagers who fled home for a life on the road at 14, to the self-confessed ‘freaks’ who perform death-defying stunts to make a dollar, these are the real life stories of people who make the Royal Easter Show come to life.
Since its inaugural year in 1823, the Sydney Royal Easter Show has grown to attract more than 850,000 each year for the 12 days it runs. They come for the rides, the sideshow games and wood-chopping, the animals, and of course, the famous show bags.
But behind the Easter Show – and every other show in Australia – is a little community who call themselves ‘carnies’ or the more Australian ‘showie’ who make it all possible. And they all come with their own unique story and reason for deciding a take up a life on the road.
Sean Peaches (pictured) joined the traveling show when he was 14-years-old because he needed an escape from family problems
‘When I first joined, I was home sick every single day. I wanted to go home, but I knew I couldn’t,’ Mr Peaches told Daily Mail Australia
Mr Peaches joined the traveling show when he was 14-years-old, because he needed an escape from family problems.
‘When I first joined, I was home sick every single day. I wanted to go home, but I knew I couldn’t,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I knew no one when I joined the show, but that was a good thing.
‘I needed an escape and this was it.’
Mr Peaches, originally from Dubbo in New South Wales, said he was part of the ‘carnie circus’ but insisted he and his carnie family’ were ‘normal folk’.
Now living on the road, Mr Peaches said he could never return to a normal lifestyle.
‘I’ve been doing this for most of my life. It’s all I know,’ he said.
Eden Zenari (pictured in sideshow alley) attended the Easter Show on Tuesday with her brother Jett
Mr Miller has travelled with the show for 25 years. He was 16 when he dropped out of school to join
What’s on at the Royal Sydney Easter Show?
The show runs between Friday, March 23 until Tuesday, April 3
The show is held at Sydney’s Olympic Park at Homebush, in the city’s west
Gates open daily at 9am and the evening entertainment and fireworks finish at 9pm
Show includes rides, performances, agricultural shows, cattle and horse showing, food competitions and more
Public transport is included in ShowLink tickets
Since its inaugural year in 1823, the Sydney Royal Easter Show has attracted more than 850,000 people annually
Adult tickets: $42.50, children: $26.50, concession: $32
Tickets are cheaper after dark, adults $31, children: $10, concession: $23
Jason ‘Spungy’ Miller
Mr Miller has travelled with the show for 25 years. He was 16 when he dropped out of school to join.
The side-show worker said a lot had changed since he first joined, most notably, the people.
‘When I first started we were given nick names. Not for fun but necessity. No one could be known by their real names because so many people were running away from the law,’ he said.
‘That was the way it was in the old days, you can’t do that now. We have police checks and everything to work with the kids.
‘We used to live in tents, now we’re living the life in caravans.’
Mr Miller said it had been a tough slog to change the ‘carnie’ reputation over the years.
‘It’s been hard to prove we’re good people… we’re not all thieves,’ he said.
Mr Miller said he met people from all walks of life when he travelled across country with the show.
‘My favourite place is Cairns. My least favourite is Sydney. Sydney is home to the rudest and most arrogant people. The best part of Sydney is seeing it in the revision mirror,’ he said.
A performer relaxes back stage before the parade which runs three times a day
Ms Grimsten packed up her life and joined the show to be with her 25-year-old boyfriend Michael Golonski
‘There’s no rules, no responsibility, no bills,’ Mr Golonski said (pictured with his girlfriend Ms Grimston)
Mr Golonski (pictured second from the right) with his team at the Sydney Easter Show, Tuesday
Gillian Grimsten and Michael Golonski
Ms Grimsten joined the show for love.
The 19-year-old said it was ‘every kids dream’ to join the show but she never thought she would get the chance.
It wasn’t until Christmas when she went to her local show with friends, she met a man who gave her the opportunity.
Ms Grimsten was enjoying her local show at Christmas last year when she met a man working in sideshow alley and instantly fell in love.
Ms Grimsten packed up her life and joined the show to be with her now boyfriend Michael Golonski, 25.
Mr Golonski said being a full-time showie was ‘the ultimate’.
‘There’s no rules, no responsibility, no bills,’ he said.
While he’s been living out of a caravan for the last eight years, he said he never went without anything: ‘Even my Playstation’.
While he lived his ultimate lifestyle, he said the worst part was dealing with the adults who visit the show with their children.
‘They treat us very badly. We’re the lowest of the low to these people,’ he said.
The Pain Proof Pin Up, Zoe L’Amore, fire breathing for the audience as part of her show with the ‘Psycho Sideshow’
Fun and games behind the scenes as performers prepare to walk through the showgrounds for the parade
Jett Zenari and Eden Zenari with worker Roberta Villalba pose up for the camera
This blonde beauty adjusts her headpiece as she sits atop a fake elephant for the parade
A parade performer covers her costume with a jumper as takes a breather backstage, ahead of the next show on Tuesday
Ipswich woman Emily Jones (pictured) described life as a ‘showie’ as ‘probably the world’s longest-ever pub crawl’
Emily Jones, from Ipswich, Queensland, left everything behind to join the show 12 months ago.
The 25-year-old said her love affair with the lifestyle started when she saw an ad on Gumtree looking for people to man the showbag stand at her local show.
‘After my first stint I told my family I was packing my bag and booking a flight to join the show,’ she said.
Although she described it as ‘probably the world’s longest ever pub crawl’, she said she was governed by ‘lots of rules’.
‘Our bosses are basically our parents,’ she said.
‘We have to be home by a certain time, and we can’t stay out late, otherwise our bosses know because we all live together.’
Since the day she joined, Ms Jones said she never once regretted her decision to leave home and ‘join the circus’.
A performer with a full face of paint waves to the camera as he sits in a makeshift car during Tuesday’s parade
Professional haunters, or hauntertainers, said it was sometimes difficult to draw a line between real life and show life
Johanna Wyss and Emily Sinchak, who are professional hauntertainers, take a breather from scaring people
Johanna Wyss and Emily Sinchak
Professional haunters, or ‘hauntertainers’, said it was sometimes difficult to draw a line between real life and show life.
Johanna Wyss, 24, and Emily Sinchak, 26, make their living as professional horror house entertainers.
The women travel around the globe teaching people how to scare people in horror houses.
Ms Sinchak said the job, although fun, ‘destroyed’ them physically and mentally.
‘I got my front tooth knocked out by a prop, and my knee is ruined,’ she said.
But the 26-year-old from Chicago in the US, said her mental state was hit hardest.
‘You kind of lose your mind a little bit, you don’t know who you are by the end of it,’ she said.
‘People take your energy.’
‘All of a sudden you’re talking to the bus driver in your clown voice,’ Ms Wyss added.
‘Your normal life melts away.’
Johanna Wyss, 24, travels around the world teaching people how to best scare people in horror houses
Ms Wyss (left, with Ms Sinchak) said people often forgot she was a real person when she was in costume
Ms Wyss said people often forgot she was a real person when she was in costume.
‘You become not human to some people, and they think just because you’re wearing a mask, it waves consent and they can treat you less than human,’ she said.
‘One woman told me she’d kill me, no joke.
‘It can be a gritty lifestyle.’
Ms Wyss said she saw a different side to people when they stepped foot in horror houses.
‘I couldn’t count the number of times a mother has used her child as a shield when she’s scared,’ she said.
‘Little boys fall apart and boyfriends turn out to be not so macho when they run and leave their girlfriends in the dust,’ Ms Sinchak added.
‘Little boys fall apart and boyfriends turn out to be not so macho when they run and leave their girlfriends in the dust,’ Ms Sinchak added
Ms Wyss (pictured left) said she saw a different side to people when they stepped foot in horror houses
‘Little boys fall apart and boyfriends turn out to be not so macho when they run and leave their girlfriends in the dust,’ Ms Sinchak said
Ride conductor Ben Keyes said he was just walking down the street in his home town of Newcstle one day when ‘a bloke asked me if I wanted a job’
Ben Keyes (pictured) said he very quickly became a full-time ‘showy’, travelling across the country from show to show
‘You physically go to the show every day, but you’re never really at the show, enjoying the show,’ Mr Keyes said
Ride conductor Ben Keyes said he was walking down a street in his home town of Newcastle one day when ‘a bloke just asked me if I wanted a job’.
Mr Keyes said he very quickly became a full-time ‘showie’, travelling from show to show.
While he spent his days at the show, Mr Keyes said it was an eerie gig.
‘You physically go to the show every day, but you’re never really at the show,’ he said.
Chayne Hultgren, or The Space Cowboy as he likes to be known as, entertains people by swallowing 24 swords
The Space Cowboy, from Byron Bay, holds the record for most chansaw juggling catches on a unicycle, most weight dragged with hooks in the eye sockets, most targets hit with throwing knifes in one minute, and even most swords swallowed underwater
The Space Cowboy
Chayne Hultgren, or The Space Cowboy, entertains people by swallowing 24 swords.
Equipped with magnets in his chest to pull the swords away from his heart, he is ‘Australia’s most prolific record breaker’.
The Space Cowboy, from Byron Bay, holds the record for most chainsaw juggling catches on a unicycle, most weight dragged with hooks in the eye sockets, most targets hit with throwing knifes in one minute, and even most swords swallowed underwater.
Mr Hultgren said if he wasn’t performing, he was training.
He spoke fondly of his death defying stunts, saying he watched on as the swords vibrated with his heartbeat as they slid down his throat.
Mr Hultgren said he would be a performer for ‘as long as physically possible’.
Self-described ‘freak show artist’, Captain Frodo, has been a performer since he was just eight-years-old
Contortionist Captain Frodo
Self-described ‘freak show artist’, Captain Frodo, has been a performer since he was just eight-years-old.
An assistant in his father’s magic show, Captain Frodo said he could never entertain living a ‘normal life’.
Captain Frodo, otherwise known as The Incredible Rubberman, is the son of Norwegian magician, The Great Santini.
Frodo was born double jointed, which he has used to his advantage in shows across the world.
Contorting his body into unfathomable shapes, Frodo passed his body through a tennis racket for Sydney’s Easter Show on Tuesday.
‘My biggest injury is repetitive strain injury,’ he said.
An assistant in his father’s magic show, Captain Frodo said he couldn’t ever entertain living a ‘normal life’
Captain Frodo, otherwise known as The Incredible Rubberman, is the son of Norwegian magician, The Great Santini
Contorting his body into weird and wacky shapes, Frodo passed his body through a tennis racket for Sydney’s Easter Show
The Lizardman, Erik Sprague, is a sideshow performer who has dedicated his life to body modification
With a full-body tattoo of green scales, a bifurcated tongue, and Teflon grafted above his eyes, and sharpened teeth, The Lizardman makes his living as a freak
The Lizardman, Erik Sprague, is a sideshow performer who has dedicated his life to body modification.
With a full-body tattoo of green scales, a bifurcated tongue, teflon grafted above his eyes, and sharpened teeth, The Lizardman makes a living as a freak.
‘I’m a lizard but I’m also a guinea pig because of all the experimental medical work I’ve had,’ he said.
‘The fact that I’m still alive is testament to the fact nothing has gone as wrong as it could have.’
The Lizardman, who has 700 hours worth of tattoo work on his body, said ‘appearance is communication’.
‘Most people want to look like supermodels, I want to look like Godzilla,’ he said.
‘I want to wear this every day.
‘I’m an outlier, I’m a freak.’
‘I’m a lizard but I’m also a guinea pig due to all the experimental medical work I’ve had,’ The Lizardman said
Constanza Martinez (pictured) runs the teacup ride at the Sydney Easter Show
Anne Evans with her crystal ball: ‘We don’t encourage people to do it if they are not believers,’ she said
With elevated eyebrows, this man appears surprised to see the camera as he passes with the parade on stilts
It appears not all clowns are happy: A downcast clown looks blue as he leans against the railings ahead of the parade
Michael Keen, a dancer and acrobat, is also a social worker on the side. ‘I will never be that person who performs when they’re not relevant anymore,’ he said