Accessibility links

Fans Grateful for One Last Time at the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’

  • Associated Press

Gene Goldstein (center right) and his family stop for a photo outside the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., which is hosting the final performances of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, May 20, 2017. From left are Cheryl Goldstein, Dawn Mirowitz, Gene Goldstein and Heather Greenberg.

Lions, tigers and clowns, no more. Oh my. It’s curtains for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

This weekend is the last chance for fans to see death-defying acrobats, exotic animals and flashy costumes as the circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world’s biggest big tops.

Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show.

'An adult today'

“I’m becoming an adult today,” said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. “I can’t go to the circus with my daddy anymore.”

Greenberg and her parents, and her three children, along with her sister and extended family — 12 in all — clowned around, laughing and joking, as they walked into the show.

Her sister, Dawn Mirowitz, 42, of Dix Hills, New York, sobered as she pondered a future without the Ringling Brothers circus.

“We’ll never get a chance to take our grandchildren to the circus,” she said.

Higher costs, smaller crowds

Feld executives say declining attendance and high operating costs are among reasons for closing.

Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one ending its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island.

The final shows of what was long promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth” are being staged at the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York. There are three scheduled shows Saturday and three Sunday. For those who can’t make it, the final circus show Sunday night will be streamed live on Facebook Live and on the circus’ website.

Clarissa Williams of West Hempstead, N.Y., and her daughter Nylah, 8, saw one of the final shows of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus at the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., May 20, 2017. Williams is a lifelong circus fan
Clarissa Williams of West Hempstead, N.Y., and her daughter Nylah, 8, saw one of the final shows of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus at the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., May 20, 2017. Williams is a lifelong circus fan

One last show

Clarissa Williams, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom from West Hempstead, New York, was taking her 8-year-old daughter, Nylah, to the show.

“I’m thankful we get to see it before it leaves,” she said. “I pray that when they end, they take the animals and put them in a safe, sacred place.”

A spokesman for the circus says homes have been found for the animals that were owned by Ringling, including the tigers, horses and camels.

XS
SM
MD
LG