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Gibsonton, Florida
View of a river in Gibsonton
View of a river in Gibsonton
Location in Hillsborough County and the U.S. state of Florida
Location in Hillsborough County and the U.S. state of Florida
Country  United States
State  Florida
County Flag of Hillsborough County, Florida.png Hillsborough
 • Total 15.44 sq mi (40.00 km2)
 • Land 12.81 sq mi (33.19 km2)
 • Water 2.63 sq mi (6.81 km2)
7 ft (2 m)
 • Total 18,566
 • Density 1,448.88/sq mi (559.42/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 813
FIPS code 12-25900
GNIS feature ID 0283060

Gibsonton, sometimes nicknamed Gibtown, is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. U.S. Route 41 runs through the center of the community. The population was 14,234 at the 2010 census, up from 8,752 at the 2000 census.

Gibsonton was famous as a sideshow wintering town, where various people in the carnival and circus businesses would spend the off season, placing it near the winter home for the Ringling Brothers Circus at Tampa, Sarasota and Venice in various times. It was home to Percilla the Monkey Girl, the Anatomical Wonder, and the Lobster Boy. Siamese twin sisters ran a fruit stand here. At one time, it was the only post office with a counter for dwarfs. Aside from the agreeable winter climate, Gibsonton offered unique circus zoning laws that allowed residents to keep elephants and circus trailers on their front lawns.

Gibsonton was founded by James Gibson, Sr., from Greenville, Alabama, in 1884. He homesteaded 150 acres at the mouth of the Alafia River, stretching to the east for approximately a half a mile along the south bank of the river. Gibson, along with Granville Platt and F.L. Henderson, became trustees of a school erected in 1888.


Gibsonton is located at 27°50′16″N 82°22′27″W / 27.83778°N 82.37417°W / 27.83778; -82.37417 (27.837894, −82.374070).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the community has a total area of 13.7 square miles (35 km2), of which 12.9 square miles (33 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2), or 6.14%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1990 7,706
2000 8,752 13.6%
2010 14,234 62.6%
2020 18,566 30.4%

As of the census of 2010, there were 14,234 people living in the community. The racial makeup of the community was 72.80% White, 12.68% African American, 0.58% Native American, 1.78% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 8.96% from other races, and 3.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 27.88% of the population.

There were 3,112 households, out of which 36.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.9% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.5% were non-families. 20.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the community the population was spread out, with 29.7% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 8.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.0 males.

The median income for a household in the community was $34,000, and the median income for a family was $36,067. Males had a median income of $27,457 versus $21,826 for females. The per capita income for the community was $15,695. About 16.0% of families and 18.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.8% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.

Carnivals and the International Independent Showmen's Association, Inc. and Museum

Gibsonton is the location of the International Independent Showmen's Association, Inc ("Gibtown Showmen's Club") a non-profit private organization made up of people in the outdoor amusement industry. The original club building opened in 1966 and has expanded to be the largest Showmen's Association in the United States. There are over 4500 members from all over the United States and several foreign countries. Gibsonton is also the home of the largest trade show in the carnival industry. At the trade show exhibits include rides, food supplies and equipment, concession trailers, electrical supplies, insurance companies, novelty items, plush toys, and jewelry.

Gibtown's International Independent Showmen’s Museum houses on two floors a wide assortment of antique equipment, historic printed materials and detailed exhibits that tell the carnival story – most of it donated by practicing carnies. Carnival items from across the country reflecting nearly a century of carnival experiences have been donated.

The museum features photos of carnival setups throughout the years with a particular focus on carnival transportation and the role that Gibsonton played in carnival history. The museum has one of the first Ferris Wheels in the country, which is assembled right in the middle of the exhibits. Visitors can enjoy artifacts such as a slink black beaded costume work by famous burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose as well as an outfit worn by the "Viking Giant," Johann K. Petursson. Visitors will also be able to walk through carnie trailers, which open to transform from a dull-looking compartment into brightly lit and ornate facades.

Library Connection

The library at the University of South Florida (USF) has digitized many of the photos at the International Independent Showmen’s Museum. These photographs are a part of Special Collections at USF. The homepage of the collection describes the photographs as portraying the life and times of the American carnival from the late 1800s to today. The collection features many photographs that relate to means of transportation as relevant to the carnival, such as semi-trailers and trains.

Digital access to the collection is available through the USF website at The physical collection lives at the International Independent Showmen’s Museum. Much of the digitization process was made possible by members of the International Independent Showmen’s Association as well as a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center.

In addition to the collection of photographs, the USF Library also has a digital collection of Showmen's Oral Histories. Users can browse the collection at the following link: An oral history is both "a method of recording and preserving oral testimony" and the product that comes from this process. These are valuable pieces of cultural heritage that capture the memories of a person during a particular time.

Notable people

  • Grady Stiles, freak show performer known as Lobster Boy
  • Al Tomaini, former world's tallest man
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