Ringling Bros. Circus to Hold Farewell Show in March After 146 Years

Ringling Bros. Circus to Hold Farewell Show in March After 146 Years
PHOTOGRAPH: Ringling Bros. | Ringling Bros provides the highest standards of care to our animal performers 365 days a year.

All good things, including “the circus that came to town,” come to an end. The traveling spectacle that has been called “The Greatest Show on Earth” is set to have its farewell performance in May.

The announcement was made by Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It quickly drew reactions from netizens.

Stephen King wrote on his official Facebook page, “Ringling Bros closing down but will be replaced by the Pennywise Traveling Terror Tour. Bring the kids! Pennywise has balloons! Hooray!” (Pennywise is King’s evil-clown character from the novel, It)

King’s post generated numerous comments. Among them was young adult novelist Kathe Koja, who wrote, “Wonderful news for the animals! And our protests do change things.”

Feld Entertainment had actually retired the circus’ elephants last May due to shifting public tastes and constant criticism over their well-being from animal rights activists. The elephants were brought to the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

After the circus’ final show this coming May, the other animals – lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, kangaroos, llamas, and alpacas – will go to suitable homes. Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, attributes the closing down of the circus to declining ticket sales and high operating costs.

The Feld Family

The Feld family bought Ringling in 1967, after Ringling, with its juggling acts and skits, had merged with Phineas Taylor Barnum, who first introduced Jumbo the Asian elephant in 1882, along with other animals and human oddities.

Feld has a personnel of about 500 people for “Circus Extreme” and “Out of this World”, touring circuses that will wind up with a total of 30 shows over the next four months in Atlanta, Washington, Boston, Brooklyn and other major cities. Feld also produces other shows like Marvel Universe Live and Disney on Ice.

Alana Feld, Ringling Bros. producer expressed, “the family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephant will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the Center.  The transition will also enable the organization to fully focus on the role their elephants play in the pioneering pediatric cancer research project with Dr. Joshua Schiffman of the Primary Children’s Hospital and The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Pitfalls of Being a Circus Performer

Lillian Leitzel was the star performer of the Ringling Bros. Circus.  Leitzel’s mother, Nellie Pelikan, was sexually abused by the owner of a small traveling circus and gave birth to Leitzel when she (Nellie) was two months short of being 13.

When Leitzel was about 14, she joined her mom as an aerial performer. Later, Leitzel took up an act that entailed going up to about 50 or 60 feet, grasping a ring and then throwing herself into space and rotating like a human propeller—without a net below. In 1931, she plunged to her death. Leitzel’s life is the subject of a book Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus by Dean Jensen.


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