Ringling Bros. shuts down big top; watch final performance here

Taylor Byrd
May 23, 2017

The clowns, animal acts and acrobats of the storied Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus took their final bow at an arena outside NY on Sunday, with a space-themed balancing act kicking off the farewell performance of the "Greatest Show on Earth" after almost 150 years.

Kenneth Feld, the chairman and chief executive of the circus owner Feld Entertainment Inc, said at the show: "It's incredibly heartwarming to see all of you that have come out for the final performance". Set in futuristic outer space, it included performances with big cats, motorcycles, clowns, ice skaters, aerialists and basketball players.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — With laughter, hugs and tears — and the requisite death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show.

The dwindling audiences that led Ringling to fold up its metaphorical Big Top (it hadn't performed in an actual tent since 1956) probably have had more to do with competition from other forms of family entertainment than with animal rights agitation. The move came as circuses and animal-performance shows across the country have struggled with declining attendance, shrinking attention spans and shifting social pressure brought to bear by activists who have argued the animals are sometimes poorly treated.

The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus says Sunday's final shows are "a celebration". In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

The decision to close the circus was made in January when a combination of high operating costs and lower ticket sales spelled doom for the American institution. In making her the 39th person to play the role of circus host, Feld said it was taking a step toward modernizing the circus.

Like numerous show's 300 human performers, Vargas said, she plans to take a break before seeking out new opportunities, perhaps in Europe, where many of her castmates hail from. He spoke Sunday just before the second-to-last ever circus show. "I'm seeing people I haven't seen in years". The world is losing "a place of wonder", the New York Times reported the ringmaster, days before the final performance.

He said every circus has used Ringling Brothers as its compass and inspiration. "But there is a love for the circus that will never die". Ringling Brothers had to transport a mountain of equipment, thousands of people, and hundreds of animals from venue to venue.

One commenter remarked: "i remember seeing the Greatest Show on Earth as a little girl with my family".

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