Tears on last night for Ringling Bros. 'Greatest Show on Earth'

Kids threatening to run away and join the circus are examining their options this morning, as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, once one of the biggest names in American entertainment, has performed its last show. The performance was, of course, emotional for the performers-many of whom are third or fourth-generation circus folk-as well as the audience, largely composed of nostalgic adults who grew up with the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth.

The iconic circus declined in recent years due to high operating costs and long, costly legal battles with animal rights groups, such as the one to eliminate elephant acts. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus put on its final performance at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

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

"The big show is gone, but circus doesn't have to be", Stephen Craig, one of the show's clowns, said. A featured attraction for more than a century, the elephants had come to symbolize the Ringling Bros brand.

At the close of the last show, ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson thanked all the performers and the audience, leading everyone in a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne", which is traditionally sung at the end of every tour.

About a year ago, Ringling Brothers removed elephants from the show at the behest of animal-rights supporters.

More than 500 people who worked as the spellbinding acts and the quiet teams behind the scenes that kept the circus running all these years are unemployed Monday, including the Florida horse team originally from Kazikstan.

Ringling had been targeted by organizations like PETA who consider forcing animals, such as elephants, to perform cruel.

The circus originated from a show created by William Coup and PT Barnum in the 1870.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been a mega-act for roughly 100 years.

Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said that "we all have to embrace change".

Vargas said she looked forward to the "new adventures" she and her circus family would have going forward. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows.

His parents met at the Ringling circus in 1954. The Felds bought the circus back in 1982.

  • Joanne Flowers