Circus owner says final show is a 'celebration'

After more than a century in operation, the Ringling Bros Circus took its final bow in New York Sunday night.CEO Kenneth Feld, chose to take down the big top after a dramatic dip in ticket-sales.

Circus managers said in January that declining attendance and increasing operating costs are forcing what is known as the "Greatest Show on Earth" to come to a close.

The inclusion of circus acts using elephants, lions, tigers, pigs and other animals had brought complaints from animal rights activists over the years. The final performance ends a 146 year run for the circus, which billed itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth".

He spoke Sunday just before the second-to-last ever circus show. That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend has a narrative storyline.

The animal rights group, PETA, spent years petitioning against the treatment of circus animals. "I'm gonna be the last word on it too", said Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson.

"People are not really concerned with wildlife until they feel it and see it and enjoy it", he said, "and love it as much as I do - until they've seen it with their own eyes".

Bario cried as she watched the final big cat act with its leopards, tigers and Alexander Lacey, the handsome animal trainer.

In the early to mid-20th century, Ringling, which merged with Barnum & Bailey in 1919, was a much-anticipated event.

An acrobat performs in a transparent ball suspended above the floor during the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y.

If there was angst over the remaining Ringling animal performers, it was not evident at the midday performance. Circusgoers lined up to buy snow cones served in elephant-shaped mugs and snag leopard plush toys - one of which Culff bought for 7-month-old Emily.

Officials said more than a quarter of a billion people have seen the "Greatest Show on Earth". There are still circus performers.

  • Salvatore Jensen