Sideshow (automobile exhibition)

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A sideshow is an informal demonstration of automotive stunts now often held in vacant lots, and public intersections, most often in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, United States. Sideshows first appeared in Oakland as informal social gatherings of African-American youth.[1] Sideshows were made even more popular throughout the 1990s with such songs as bay area rapper Richie Rich's "Sideshow" anthem. "Down Bancroft / To the light / Let me warm it up, I hit a donut tight / Chevy on my side / Windows straight tinted / He got hype when he saw me spinnin’ / I’m up outta there, sideways to the next light"[2]

Sideshows first emerged on the streets of East Oakland during the mid 1980s. The first sideshows were originally ad hoc carshows where people would congregate in the parking lot of Foothill Square or the top level of the Eastmont Mall parking lot. The original intent of the sideshows at this time were for people to show off their cars, usually American muscle cars from the 1960s. These cars were often highly customized with elaborate candy paint jobs, all leather interiors, wire rims such as Daytons, Zeniths or Cragar Starwires and modified high performance engines. Around the early 90's, sideshows grew so popular that they had outgrown the parking lots of Eastmont Mall and Foothill square and participants began cruising up and down the Foothill Blvd which shortly after became known as "the strip". By the mid 90's the sideshow became the alternative hot spot for teenagers and adults who were too young to gain entrance into 21 and over nightclubs.

Common activities at sideshows include doughnuts.[3] and ghost riding.[4] The latter involves driving a car, opening the door and climbing out, sometimes onto the hood, sometimes standing or dancing next to the car while the car continues to roll. Violent incidents, including shootings, sometimes occur at the events.[5][6] To crack down on the illegal sideshows, the Oakland Police Department opened a police substation at Eastmont Mall and set up "No Cruising Zones" along Foothill Blvd. In efforts to keep the events from spreading west to Lake Merritt, an additional no cruising law was established along Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue in 1996. The phenomenon is most strongly associated with Oakland, California (the birthplace of the sideshow), with the events there often being attended by those in the hip hop community. Such events are promoted in local rap by artists such as E-40.[7]

On June 8, 2005, the Oakland City Council narrowly defeated a measure (pushed by then-Mayor Jerry Brown) which would have subjected spectators at sideshows to criminal sanctions, such as fines and even jail terms. Drivers face various penalties, including having their cars impounded.[8]

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