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The freakish and the bizarre under the big top in Benson Park

Scott McClelland’s family will celebrate 100 years in the circus sideshow business next year. His grandma, swallowing seven swords, is in the Sword-Swallow Hall of Fame. – Sue Capon photos

Shocking, but spellbinding and satisfying things are being unearthed under the big top this weekend as Carnival Diablo brings its Strangest Show on Earth to Benson Park.

The adrenaline-driven travelling circus sideshow led by Scott McClelland is billed as ‘the last travelling circus sideshow under a big top in Canada’.

Many County residents will recall being astounded during McClelland’s sold-out paranormal show at the Regent Theatre in February.

He had so much fun, he decided to return to the County to share more outrageous entertainment, mind-reading, psychokinesis and wonders of centuries past.

“The show was sold-out and I thought this is such a great town – they get it; so I decided I should bring the big top here and Benson Park is perfect.”

He performs under a colourful circus tent lined with banners he painted himself, because he was brought up in his grandfather’s very European carnival and his grandfather also painted his own banners. McClelland is celebrating 27 years with this show, but has been performing as an entertainer since 1977.

As grandson of the legendary Prof. N.P. Lewchuk, he follows in grand tradition in the starring role as Nikolai Diablo, who has a burning hunger for the freakish and the bizarre.

“As of next year, my family will have been in the circus sideshow industry for 100 years. My grandmother could swallow seven swords at one time. She is in the Sword-Swallow Hall of Fame. And from the age of 11 to 25 I apprenticed under my grandfather to learn the feats I do. It’s not really about magic, but about sideshow feats. ”

The show is steeped in Victorian mysticism.

“From 1920 to 1968 my grandfather was a very unusual human being and he taught me some rather strange things,” he told the crowd under the big top. “I would like to stretch your imaginations. Stretch them further than they’ve ever been stretched before.”

Among his freakish collection is Vassago, the mechanical marvel, a pig with one head, two snouts and three eyes, the shrunken human head and, of course, the Feejee Mermaid, of PT Barnum fame, a treasured gift from McClelland’s grandfather.

While you’re waiting for the show, Sarah Binx will make you some ‘monster floss’.

The show is just $10 cash at the door and is suited for everybody (under age nine or so may find it scary). There will be about seven shows offered daily from Friday to Sunday from 11am to 10pm.

Nicole Malbeuf, of Trellis Arts and Entertainment, performs aerial silks high above Benson Park.

Visitors to Benson Park waiting for the Carnival Diable show to begin were thrilled by the grace, beauty and strength of Nicole Malbeuf, Trellis Arts principle performer, founder and director.

Her performance was part of Experience Picton’s Evening Art Crawl.

Malbeuf, of Peterborough, started with gymnastics but her heart rested with aerial silks.

“Inexplicitly,” she said. “Time went by and I was still doing it, then had opportunities to perform. It took off.”


Her ‘stage’ in Benson Park put her more than 20 feet in the air but she has performed at more than double that height.

“It takes lots of practice,” she said. “The smile I do turn on. In training, I have a terrible face,” she laughs.

“I’m having a great time up there,” she said, noting the trickiest part is endurance.

“There are some foundations you need to have when you start out, but once you have those foundations, it’s way more fun.”

The skills and combinations are similar, she notes, but are in different orientations.

When not performing, she teaches others the skills they need to float in the air.

Her entertainment company has been touring the Quinte area over the summer, but is based in Peterborough.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    I saw this performer at the February show at the Regent. It was really a special performance and I thoroughly enjoyed Scott McClelland – he is a master of illusions. I hope to see him over the weekend.

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