Final Curtain For 'The Greatest Show on Earth'

After 146 years and having entertained generations of Americans, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus gave its final performance Sunday night. The company removed its famous elephants from its shows in May 2016, but ticket sales continued to decline.

But a year ago, the circus stopped using elephants in their shows, because of animal rights protests.

Ringling's absence leaves about 23 circuses on the road, of various size and format, in the United States today.

"This was a hard business decision to make, but by ending the circus tours, we will be able to concentrate on the other lines of business within the Feld Entertainment portfolio", Juliette Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. But the shows lost their appeal toward the end of the 20th century, Feld said last January.

When the Feld family first acquired the circus, the show was just under 3 hours.

Th final performance is in NY.

Capping a legacy that stretches back to the legendary 19th century showman P.T. Barnum, the circus bid adieu with a series of shows over the weekend at the Nassau Coliseum.

His parents met at the Ringling circus in 1954.

"We are, forevermore, the Greatest Show on Earth", boomed Johnathan Lee Iverson, who has been the ringmaster since 1999.

Feld, his voice sometimes shaking, said that in the 50 years that his family had produced the circus, over a quarter-billion people had seen its shows. One was a traditional three-ring circus which ended its run in Providence, Rhode Island earlier in May. "PETA is urging everyone to build on this momentum by never buying a ticket to any circus or amusement park that still uses live animals".

Seeing the circus on its final day was "a little bit sad", said Jeff Sinkiewicz, 56, of Centereach, there with a friend and her 10-year-old daughter. The second half includes more aerialists, hoop divers, basketball players in unicycles and an act that the circus staff calls "The Fuzzies", featuring dogs, pigs, llamas and goats.

Iverson then led the audience through a one last rendition of "Auld Lang Syne", a tradition at the end of circuses, as performers sang along and hugged one another.

  • Salvatore Jensen