Coming Soon: The Passing of An Institution

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It happened on the Sunday before — some would say — a political circus begins.

Feld Entertainment announced it was shutting down its most famous enterprise.   Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…children of all ages, what that means is this May we will see the final performances ever of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Some might say the handwriting was on the wall.

It was just last year that Ringling Bros. made the decision as part of its ‘future’, that it’s elephants would no longer be involved in the touring show.

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In a statement Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment which produces the circus, essentially said that decision was the final straw that led to the decision to bring down the house lights later this year.

“Ringling Bros. 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.”

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a circus live.  I’ll be honest…I’m not even sure it was Ringling Bros.   The flashes I can remember are filled with smiles and wonderment about how they got the tigers to jump through the hoops, and how all those clowns got in that little car.  That was back when clown weren’t so scary to so many people.  (Perhaps a secondary reason why circus popularity was on the decline)

Kenneth Feld in his statement said thank you to legions of families and fans who kept the circus going all these years.

“Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros. The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make. The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.”

Cirque du Soleil’s redefinition of the spectacle made Ringling Bros. a Model T Ford in a Cadillac Escalade world.   It’s time had come.

So..after 146 years.  The “smell of the grease paint” will start to fade and the “roar of the crowd” will fall silent.  But many a child for as long as they are able will remember the time they were witness to “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

The final 17 shows will be at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY May 12-21.

 

 

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