The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, which for years claimed to put on “The Greatest Show on Earth,” plans to go out with a bang with a run of shows at NYCB Live Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum starting Friday and ending May 21.
The traveling show will turn out the lights on its 146-year operation—a blow to the thousands of families that learned to appreciate the show’s entertainment value but a celebration of sorts for its animal-loving detractors.
“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,” said Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, which produces the circus, said in a statement in January announcing its final show. “The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans who have become members 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.”
The last show will be live streamed on Facebook, so ticketless fans will have an opportunity to witness the finale.
Its final chapter comes as the company has struggled to navigate the seemingly fatal combination of rising costs and declining ticket sales. The company was also forced to retire its elephants last year after previously being fined for federal animal welfare violations.
“After 36 years of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” the animal rights group said in a statement in January.
Ringling Bros. had the distinction of being the largest circus in the nation.