Sarah Pfledderer / Lantern photographer
Sex sells — and this weekend, the people of Columbus were buying.
With its first stop in the U.S., Sexapalooza brought burlesque dancers, sexual education and a variety of toys and sexual contraptions to the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Friday through Sunday.
About 8,000 guests, who paid $20 at the door to attend the fest, were greeted by several scantily clad women and given a gift bag with free lubricant samples upon entering. Exhibitors sold a variety of things, from necklaces and nail polish, to anal beads and nipple clamps.
The large, dimly-lit room pulsed with loud beats and cheers from the main stage as patrons shopped and stared at images of sex playing on several large screens.
Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Sexapalooza is in its fourth year. Although Columbus was its first stop in the U.S., the show was originally scheduled for Philadelphia, Pa. Unfortunately for the show’s producer, Liz Lewis, the venue fell outside the city lines, and township laws prohibited burlesque dancing, forcing the show to move to Ohio.
Lewis said while Columbus wasn’t her first choice for an American show, the city fit all the requirements, including a population of about 1 million people, a higher income level and a liberal mindset.
“The fact that there’s a university and a college here, you tend to have a more liberal attitude,” Lewis said. “I knew Columbus would have a lot of burlesque, a lot of artists and a lot of entertainers.”
Lewis said that while many people came out to see the dancers and buy toys, the educational side of the show is important.
“There is a huge educational aspect to the show,” Lewis said. “The more you know about your sexuality, the more powerful you feel.”
Along with performances by local burlesque group The Ooh-La-La’s, the show offered guests a sex museum with panels of information on the history of sex, vintage lingerie and old pornography on display. Local group, Adventures in Sexuality, was on site doing demonstrations of bondage equipment. There were also instructional videos and seminars on different topics, including oral sex.
Jason Rabant, a second-year in aeronautical engineering, attended the event with his girlfriend to find outfits and toys. Rabant said Columbus is a perfect host to Sexapalooza.
“Columbus is sexy because there are a lot of younger people, it’s a young city, and when you’re young you want to explore everything and this is perfect for that,” Rabant said.
Others did not like the idea of Sexapalooza.
“I do not think it’s OK for it to be that close to school,” said April Ou, a first-year in biology. “I think that’s really gross. That kind of scares me.”
Greg Kissner, a Columbus native, attended the event to film his web series, “The Middle West Show.” Kissner took part in a demonstration where he was strapped to a bed with Velcro, but said the people-watching was the best part of the event.
“The most interesting thing is just meeting the crazy people who come out to these things,” Kissner said. “It brings people out of the woodwork.”
Lewis said Sexapalooza will return to Columbus next year.
Danielle Seamon contributed to this story.