UNIONDALE, NY/May 20, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — For some circus fans Saturday, it was a chance to say goodbye to beloved childhood memories. For others, it was a bucket list fulfillment.
Lions, tigers and clowns, no more. Oh my. It’s curtains for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
This weekend, the most famous American circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world’s biggest big tops.
Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show.
“I am sad that it’s going to be over,” said Melissa Angevine of Walton, New York. She and her husband drove four hours with their two kids Saturday to see the show “It’s a pastime that no longer anybody gets to enjoy anymore, unfortunately. Everybody’s in their tablets and not really going out and seeing different kinds of entertainment anymore.”
Saturday evening’s circus was an extravaganza of big cats, motorcycle stunts, clowns performing death-defying stunts, ice skaters, buckets of popcorn and Mongolian contortionists — and that was just the first half of the show.
“I’m becoming an adult today,” said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. “I can’t go to the circus with my daddy anymore.”
Greenberg and her parents, and her three children, along with her sister and extended family — 12 in all — clowned around, laughing and joking, as they walked into the show.
Her sister, Dawn Mirowitz, 42, of Dix Hills, New York, sobered as she pondered a future without the Ringling Brothers circus.
“We’ll never get a chance to take our grandchildren to the circus,” she said.
Feld executives say declining attendance combined with high operating costs are among reasons for closing.
Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one ending its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island.
The final shows of what was long promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth” are being staged throughout the weekend, with three shows Saturday and three Sunday. The final circus show Sunday night will be streamed on Facebook Live and on the circus’ website.
Clarissa Williams, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom from West Hempstead, New York, took her 8-year-old daughter, Nylah, to the show.
“I’m thankful we get to see it before it leaves,” she said. “I pray that when they end, they take the animals and put them in a safe, sacred place.”
A circus spokesman says homes have been found for the animals that were owned by Ringling, including the tigers, horses and camels.
TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press