For over 146 years Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus has been a major provider of smiles for all faces who have attended “The Greatest Show on Earth.” That long run of service is coming to an end this weekend as Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus will play their last show this Sunday night at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced that they would live stream the event on their Facebook page for those wanting one last chance to watch.
Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus has two traveling circuses, ‘Circus XTREME’ and ‘Out of This World’, XTREME shutdown earlier this month at the Providence, Rhode Island Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The company has cited low ticket sales and high operating costs as the reasons for ending the long-running program. Attendance across all of Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus shows has decreased sharply since the company decided to stop using elephants. The decision to stop using elephants came after Feld Entertainment was put under heavy amounts of pressure from both PETA and the humane society. Feld paid a $270,000 fine to the US Department of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2011, according to one CNN report.
“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision,” Kenneth Feld, chairman, and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the company that produces the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus, said back in January. “Ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”
A spokesman for PETA released the following statement, “As of May, the saddest show on earth for wild animals will end. Thirty-six years of PETA protests, of documenting animals left to die, beaten animals, and much more, has reduced attendance to the point of no return. All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, must take note: society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them.”
Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows was founded in 1884 in Baraboo, Wisconsin, by five of the seven brothers, and then merged with P.T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey’s company, Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth, to form Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919. The Feld family purchased the company for $8 million in 1967 and then sold it to the Mattel Corporation for $40 million in 1971, before buying it back in 1984.
The untold story of the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus is, of course, the culture of the workers who make the show. The circus is the only major business that still uses the train system as it’s main source of transportation, a throwback to the days of old. On those service cars, these people live a life outside and away from the controversies that have surrounded their show over the last several years. Thousands of trapeze artists, clowns and attendants have worked with the company along the way, and have made their way to every major city in America. 146 years of service is nothing to bat an eye at in this age of daily corporate collapse. Those who still call Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus their employer will have to look for a new profession after this weekend as the train stops one last time. The lifestyle they have perfected over the years is no longer one that is sustainable. One has to wonder just what these people will do now with their profession now being a thing of the past.
[Featured Image by Theo Wargo/Getty Images]