Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top after 146 years

Jun 03, 2017, 04:27

Before Feld Entertainment, there was Phineas Taylor Barnum's traveling show of animals and human oddities, and the five Ringling brothers' juggling act and skits in Wisconsin in the late 1800s.

The finale, announced by Feld in January, came a year after the company bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and agreed to stop using elephants in its performances.

Ringling Bros was the last American circus that travelled by rail.

"Farewell, from the Greatest Show on Earth!" ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, an 18-year veteran of the show and the first African American to hold the job, told a packed midday audience, offering one of the few signs that the circus was coming to a close. The final performance is at 7 p.m., and is expected to be live streamed on Facebook Live.

Although it retired its elephants in May 2016, Ringling Bros continued to include tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels in its shows until the end, despite criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and others.

The announcement means most of the shows' 500 or so employees will be left without work, the AP reported. "Between now and May, we will give them one last chance to experience the joy and wonder of Ringling Bros".

TAP HERE to read and watch how performers are dealing with the end of the circus.

As CBS2's Cindy Hsu reports, the Earth will be looking for its new greatest show once the curtain drops once and for all.

"We are the keepers of the stories of shows like Ringling Bros we are here to preserve that", Saloutos said. Once Ringling Brothers made its announcement in February that the touring show was ending, performances quickly sold out and visits ticked up at Circus World.

The show didn't get a rise out of the crowd until almost 45 minutes into the first act, when lion tamer Alexander Lacey's big cats started hitting their marks with clockwork timing.

Feld's father and uncle bought the circus in 1967. If you look around the world at other circuses, they are much smaller and many of them have a permanent home. As he asked his NY audience to support "well-run" circuses, zoos and "public parks that look after these animals", the Showfolks crowd - many still smarting over the sting of watching Ringling retire its elephants previous year because of animal-rights activists - weighed in with authentic applause.

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