A carnival of sorts has been touring the Baltimore-Washington area this summer, but you won't see a bearded lady or a muscle man at this show. These performers are mostly small, black and creepy-crawly.
Roaches are the star attraction to the Raid Expo, a four-month educational and promotional tour sponsored by the Chicago-based manufacturer of home exterminating products. The Texas-to-New England exhibit stopped in Patterson Park recently before heading to the Washington suburbs, including a stop at the Springfield (Va.) Mall today and tomorrow.
An average of several hundred visitors a day gape at the Expo entertainers, according to staff tallies.
"They're so ugly," said Deborah Igbalode, who stumbled into the Expo at Landover Mall in Prince George's County Tuesday. She had just taken a break from her job at a nearby mall shop and hoped to grab lunch at Three Brothers Pizza parlor, which is adjacent to the exhibit.
"I thought I would get something to eat but I've changed my mind," she said.
These bugs are not just your ordinary turn-on-the-kitchen-lights-at-midnight variety roaches. The Expo features German roaches, American roaches, and even a four inch Madagascar hissing roach. They live in climate controlled plexiglass chambers while on tour, and they all eat dog chow, despite their ethnic differences.
Also along for the trip is a live tarantula. Expo staffers say he ismerely for entertaining children and is not an exterminating tool himself, though he dines on an American roach once every few days.
Several red, white and yellow displays tell about the roaches and, more specifically, how to kill them. A spinning bull's-eye has cartoon pictures of various household pests so that people can test their aim with Raid's new aerosol bottle -- filled with water for the demonstration.
There are no stuffed animals or other prizes for marksmanship, but they do give away stickers with cartoon roaches and the company logo.
The visitors seemed torn between repulsion and fascination as they gazed and grimaced at the bugs.
Jerome Ginsburg, a Silver Spring man who isn't even fazed by snakes -- he catches them and sends them to a zoo -- spoke for many when he said, "I can't stand roaches.
"I hate when their antennae, you know, when you approach them, they sort of go up in the air like this," he said, wiggling two fingers from the end of his nose.
But apparently not all people dislike roaches. The pizza parlor mentioned no slack off in their usual lunch rush.
And 8-year-old Kasey Parker made a day of hanging around the Expo. "I like roaches," she said, "because I can stomp on them. I smash them."