'Greatest Show on Earth' circus performs its last act after 146 years

Emmett Rice
May 23, 2017

"So from the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you all very much, and please enjoy and celebrate the Greatest Show on Earth one last time".

Clarissa Williams, of West Hempstead, N.Y., poses with her daughter Nylah, 8, after seeing one of the final shows of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus at the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.,. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse.

"There's a feeling of adoration, pride, in the fact that I've been a part of an American institution".

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson stages the final farewell presentation of the Ringling Bros. For example, trainer Alexander Lacey's famous big cats will remain with him, he said, while the show's other tigers will go to a center that specializes in tigers.

The circus had been in operation for more than 100 years. The last show of the evening, which will mark the official end of the 146-year-old circus, will be streamed live via Ringling.com and Facebook. "Now that we have made this decision, as a company, and as a family, we will strive to support our circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities".

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Members of PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - picket on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus in Uniondale, New York. "But Ringling stonewalled for decades", PETA said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.

All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, must take note: "society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them".

In 1884, the Ringling Brothers created their own circus in Wisconsin. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows.

Capping a legacy that stretches back to 19th century showman PT Barnum, the circus bade adieu at a series of shows this weekend at the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on New York's Long Island.

Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the production, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

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