Curtain falls on 'Greatest Show on Earth' after 146 years

23 May, 2017, 01:25 | Author: Felix Jensen

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus folded up its Big Top for the last time on Sunday night in NY, as emotional performers, wistful crowd-goers and ecstatic protesters said farewell to an institution in American live entertainment after almost a century and a half.

After more than 100 years in operation, CEO Kenneth Feld chose to close down the circus, citing a dramatic dip in ticket sales. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson said to close out the show, leading to a raucous standing ovation. That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend has a narrative storyline.

Animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. And in May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

Ringling streamed the final show on its website and on Facebook Live, where at least 19,000 viewers watched at one point. The ASPCA and the Humane Society have campaigned to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

The circus, which traces its lineage back to showman P.T. Barnum's traveling museum in the 1800s, performed its final show at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. There were three scheduled shows Saturday and three on Sunday.

During Sunday's final performance, Alexander Lacey, the circus's big cat trainer, addressed the animal-rights issue directly, pausing from his act to tell the crowd that the circus had bred, raised and cared for 500 lions and tigers - on display Sunday night, he said, were the circus's ninth generation of tigers and 11th generation of lions. "But while the show is over for that circus, there are still others that continue these same types of horrific abuse", says PETA Assistant Manager John Di Leonardo. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows.

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He said more than 250 million people had seen Ringling's shows and added: "It's the people, it's the spirit, the dedication, the perseverance of everyone that you'll see here tonight that makes the impossible possible".

Over the years, he had taken his children to the Ringling circus as many as 25 times.

The circus has wowed crowds for decades with its "Greatest Show on Earth", and is taking its final bow Sunday evening.

"I'm becoming an adult today", said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City.

The Ringling cast assembled in the finale of the final performance on Sunday, as it does at the conclusion of every tour, to sing Auld Lang Syne.

Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island.

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