After 146 years and having entertained generations of Americans, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus gave its final performance Sunday night.
Ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson led a singalong of "Auld Lang Syne", joined by cast and crew, as well as dozens of retired and former circus performers in the audience,Sunday night's 7 p.m. performance was the last of three final shows at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., about 30 miles east of New York City.Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.
The circus had also fought a running battle with animal rights activists, who had claimed that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse.
The company removed its famous elephants from its shows in May 2016, but ticket sales continued to decline.In the end, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn't compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations.Sunday night's finale, broadcast around the world on Facebook and YouTube, featured an extravaganza of big cats, motorcycle stunts, clowns performing death-defying tricks, ice skaters and Mongolian contortionists — and that was just the first half.
The second half brought more aerialists, hoop divers, basketball players in unicycles and an act that the circus staff calls "The Fuzzies," featuring dogs, pigs, llamas and goats.
Then came the end, the rounds of applause, the thank-yous, and the bittersweet singalong. And shortly before 9:30 p.m., The Greatest Show on Earth was no more.