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, California as informal social gatherings of 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 was for people to show off their cars, usually American muscle cars from the 1960s. These cars were often highly customized with elaborate paint jobs, all leather interiors, wire rims and modified high performance engines. Around the early 1990s, 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 1990s the sideshow became the alternative hot spot for those 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.[4]:256

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.[7] On April 30, 2019, the San Jose City Council passed an ordinance making spectators punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ California, Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley. "Undercurrents: Making an Alternative to Sideshows Work. Category: Columns from The Berkeley Daily Planet".
  2. ^ "Rap Atlas: OaklandEastmont Mall". Complex.
  3. ^ "Police Crack Down As 'Sideshow' Drivers Shut Down Freeways To Perform Donuts « CBS Los Angeles". CBS Los Angeles. January 26, 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b Tilton, Jennifer (2010-10-03). Dangerous Or Endangered?: Race and the Politics of Youth in Urban America. NYU Press. pp. 156–. ISBN 9780814783122. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Police: Suspect shot, killed by Oakland cops amid massive sideshows". San Francisco Chronicle. November 15, 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  6. ^ Alund, Natalie Neysa (2015-06-24). "Oakland: Police officer badly injured by thrown bottle at sideshow". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  7. ^ Jim Herron Zamora (June 8, 2005). "Oakland council rejects Brown sideshow plan". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  8. ^ Alexa Mae Asperin (May 1, 2019). "Watching a sideshow in San Jose is now a crime". Retrieved 2019-05-01.