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Iconic American Circus Performs Last Show on Sunday

  • VOA News

Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson (right) hugs a member of the crew after the red unit's final performance, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a u

An American institution, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” is closing Sunday after 146 years.

“After a lot of discussion, my family decided that with the decline in ticket sales, it was just the right business decision to close Ringling Brothers,” said Alana Feld, the executive vice president at Feld Entertainment, the owner of the iconic circus.

Elephants and ticket sales

Company officials cited decreasing sales after the circus ended its popular display of elephants for the closure, as well as changing entertainment tastes, high operating costs and prolonged battles with animal rights groups over using animals in the show.

Feld said the elephants have been moved to an elephant conservation center in Florida while the other animals have found new homes, some with the presenters they have been working with for years.

Boss clown Sandor Eke hugs fellow clowns as he holds his 2-year-old son after the red unit's final performance, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is about to put on its last show on earth.
Boss clown Sandor Eke hugs fellow clowns as he holds his 2-year-old son after the red unit's final performance, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is about to put on its last show on earth.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson said that when the announcement came out in January that the circus would soon be closing, “all I thought about was the fans.

“I thought about future generations, that really they don’t have this type of entertainment that is this pure and this intriguing and with this high level of artistry. There’s nothing out there [like this],” he said.

The circus has been a staple outing for families for much of the 20th century. The show traveled each year to cities across the country to display exotic animals, flashy costumes and high-flying acrobats.

Entertainment tastes change

Company officials say that in the past two decades youths have become more interested in movies, television, internet games and cell phone texting with friends.

Comedic clown Davis Vassallo said it was “a dream to be part of this show, the greatest show on Earth.

“I cannot even describe how happy it was for me to be part of [this show] and I’m sad of course to wake up from this amazing dream,” he said.

Animal rights groups have long been protesting the use of animals in the circus and welcomed the company’s decision earlier this year to close the show.

Ringling’s last traveling circus will perform Sunday in Uniondale, New York.

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