With taxidermy, preserved specimens, antiques, clothing, jewelry, skulls and bones, and funeral collectibles, the Oddities and Curiosities Expo is for like-minded lovers of the strange and unusual.
Growing up, Michelle Cozzaglio remembers always being intrigued by being different. She enjoyed those creepy ‘90s TV shows like Tales from the Crypt, Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark? as well as the classics like The Munsters and The Addams Family.
“I’ve always loved to be scared,” says Cozzaglio. But it wasn’t until she discovered punk music at 12 years old that her curiosity with the strange and unusual took root and started to spread.
“It opened my eyes to an amazing and welcoming community of people just like me, proud to be different from the norm,” says Cozzaglio, who admits when she was younger, she didn’t necessarily feel not “normal,” but hadn’t found what made her happy yet. When she did, she knew she was “in this for life.”
Over the years, Cozzaglio collected various weird items, including antiques, knick-knacks, old postcards and books, records, CDs, and the list goes on. Today her collection has evolved to include things like bones, human skulls, taxidermy, plants, and more.
Although her parents weren’t big fans of punk or the lifestyle Cozzaglio was embracing (because they didn’t want her to be made fun of), as time went on, they understood it wasn’t just a phase.
“They hated when I would come home with colored hair,” says Cozzaglio. Today they come to every single Tulsa show. “They are our biggest supporters.”
You can say Cozzaglio’s leap from a lover of the unusual to the owner and curator of the Oddities and Curiosities Expo began in 2013 when she and her husband started organizing events that focused on punk and alternative music and culture. At 22 years old, she’d already been working full time at AT&T for two years in the business division handling business accounts. While the pay was great, the work wasn’t satisfying.
“I was unhappy with my 8-to-5 job. I made great money for my age, but I was miserable every single day going there,” says Cozzaglio, who managed to stick it out long enough to buy her first house in 2015.
In 2016, Cozzaglio finally quit. “I just couldn’t take it anymore and left my high-paying job for a fun bartending job to hold me over until I figured out what I wanted to do,” she says.
Cozzaglio continued bartending for about a year and a half, never considering the possibility of organizing events for a full-time job. “I loved doing it, but I couldn’t see it sustaining me,” she says. “One day, I decided just to quit. Best decision of my life.”
Today curating events, which includes booking the venues, vendors, all the back-end work, and traveling to each show to oversee, is her full-time job.
“My parents raised me to work hard for what I want,” says Cozzaglio. “Because of the amazing work ethic I witnessed them having as a kid, I’ve grown up to know the importance of working hard to get where you want to be.”
Cozzaglio wants to encourage others, especially young people, to follow their dreams.
“It can be hard as a kid to find your place, but it will happen,” says Cozzaglio. “Don’t ignore what you’re passionate about just because it isn’t cool. When you’ve found something you feel passionate about, you know it.”
Since 2016, when Cozzaglio quit her job and dove headfirst into her passion, the Oddities and Curiosities Expo has been held across the country and has grown to 22 dates in 2020 with plans to expand as time goes on. While Tulsa isn’t their biggest show, it is home.
“We always have a great turn out of a few thousand people and love hearing the positive feedback from the community afterward,” says Cozzaglio. “We will always have the event in Tulsa because of the tremendous support we’ve gotten since we started.”
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Oddities and Curiosities Expo is a sideshow at a circus, you wouldn’t be wrong. With sword swallowing, walking on glass, the human pin cushion, and more, the expo has all the classic stunts that may make some onlookers hold their breath in astonishment, and others peek through their fingers in cringing curiosity. However, the main attraction is the vendors, dealers, artists, and small businesses from all over the country offering all things weird.
“You’ll find items such as taxidermy, preserved specimens, original artwork, horror and Halloween-inspired pieces, antiques, handcrafted oddities, quack medical devices, clothing, jewelry, skulls and bones, funeral collectibles and much more,” says Cozzaglio.
Cozzaglio wants to stress that all specimens in their show are sustainably sourced. “No animals were killed for the sake of art or collecting for our show,” she says.
Other activities at the expo include the four-hour jackalope workshop, which covers the basics of taxidermy. According to the workshop summary, you will learn how to skin, tan, prep the hide, create a custom mannequin, learn the basics of clay work, and by the end, will have your first jackalope mount. You will be provided with your own sustainably sourced rabbit along with a pair of cruelty-free resin antlers.
Besides the entertainment and unique vendors, Cozzaglio wants the expo to be a safe place for like-minded lovers of the strange and unusual to discover new artists and find community.
While the expo is for all ages, and they provide PG and PG-13 entertainment throughout the day, they do advise parental discretion.
“Many families and children of all age ranges come and enjoy our shows across the country, but there may be items that could frighten a child,” says Cozzaglio. “It depends on the child, so we recommend the parent make the ultimate decision.”
Oddities and Curiosities Expo
4145 E. 21st St. | Tulsa
Feb. 22: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
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