Golden ticket: German tourists buy one-millionth ticket to Coney Island Circus Sideshow

Golden ticket: German tourists buy one-millionth ticket to Coney Island Circus Sideshow
Photo by Trey Pentecost

That’s the ticket!

A couple of German tourists were granted lifetime passes to the Coney Island Circus Sideshow after one of them bought the one-millionth ticket to one of the city’s longest-running off-Broadway shows. The tourist who scored the ticket said he didn’t realize his luck until he bought the ticket and balloons and confetti suddenly fell from the ceiling.

“We really didn’t realize that they are searching for a winner — we came to buy the tickets and suddenly it was happening,” said Karsten Wulf, who traveled from Hamburg to the Big Apple with his girlfriend, Elke Hess, for a weeklong trip to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Sideshow founder Dick Zigun said the couple was the perfect pair to win the prize because they were similar to other devoted attendees who love music, the arts, and everything the city has to offer.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better couple that represents our audience. They were sort of German hipsters — he was wearing a Ramones shirt — and they were wonderful,” Zigun said. “They seemed very pleased — they were totally into New York culture, so the man in particular kept on yelling out, ‘We love New York City!’ ”

Plus, Zigun said the Wulf and Hess were the ideal winners because their foreign status means they may not take advantage of their lifetime passes the way locals might.

“Since they’re from Germany, who knows if we’re ever going to have to honor them?”

But Wulf said the pair loved the show so much that they intend to return on their next vacation.

“Of course we’ll come back at the next holiday,” he said. “We are excited, and it was a great show and very friendly people, cool bar, good music.”

The Sideshow has given a stage to sword swallowers, fire-eaters, and other off-beat acts since it debuted in 1985. Zigun said he’s been proud to use the Sideshow to give all kinds of performers — including some who are usually cast in “freak shows” — a chance to be themselves and entertain on their own terms.

“For 35 years it’s been my privilege to not only maintain sideshow history but also tinker with it, and let women and minorities and the disabled speak for themselves and be outspoken instead of being exploited,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.