After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May. The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise. “There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.” The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami. Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21. The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals. By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn’t have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image. “The competitor in many ways is time,” said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children— are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.” The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes. “Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” he said. Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary. In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.
which..of, course, is ridiculous. Ringling Brothers has brought joy to millions since before our Civil War. And now, thanks in large part to so-called “animal rights” fascists…the “Greatest Show on Earth” is calling it quits. Thanks to the pc police, kids will no longer experience the wonder of this great show that I had the privilege of seeing as a kid….and that’s too bad. Hopefully some enterprising person or persons, a venture capitalist, etc will have the vision..and take the risk to continue the “Greatest Show on Earth.”
The curtain fell a final time for elephants performing at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as the circus ended a practice that enthralled audiences for two centuries but became caught between animal rights activists’ concerns and Americans’ shifting views. Six Asian elephants danced, balanced on each others’ backs and sat on their hind legs during their last show in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday. “This is a very emotional time for us,” Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson told the crowd as the performance came to an end. He called elephants beloved members of the circus family and thanked the animals for more than 100 years of service. “We love our girls. Thank you so much for so many years of joy,” he said as the elephants left the ring for a final time. “That’s history tonight there, ladies and gentlemen, true American icons.” Elephants have been used in the circus in America for more than 200 years. In the early 1800s, Hackaliah Bailey added the elephant “Old Bet” to his circus. P.T. Barnum added the African elephant he named “Jumbo” to “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1882. “We came to say farewell to the elephants,” said Sheila Oliver, of East Providence, who brought her 4-year-old daughter, Lilliana. “This is her first circus and, unfortunately, it’s their last one.” Five elephants also performed earlier Sunday in a Ringling Bros. show in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. The Providence show opened with the national anthem. An elephant carried a performer holding an American flag then stood at attention as the song ended. A few minutes later, six elephants entered the ring, each holding the tail of the one in front of her. After Sunday’s performance, the animals will live at Ringling’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, said Alana Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus. Its herd of 40 Asian elephants, the largest in North America, will continue a breeding program and be used in a pediatric cancer research project. The Humane Society says more than a dozen circuses in the United States continue to use elephants. But none tour as widely or are as well-known as Ringling Bros. It’s also getting more difficult for circuses to tour with elephants. Dozens of cities have banned the use of bullhooks – used to train elephants – and some states are considering such legislation. Before Sunday’s show, around half a dozen protesters stood outside, including one wearing a lion costume, to protest Ringling’s use of animals.
Awful.. The PC fun-police have struck again. This time those that lose are the little kids. I remember going as a kid to see Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circuses…and seeing the elephants. Great memories! Sorry that they bowed to the pressure from PETA and other liberal anti-fun nazis. Definitely the end of an era in America. If you get the opportunity to see a circus that still has elephants, go see the show. And, support them because they’re probably getting the same heat from these fascists.