In pics: ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ circus performs its last act after 146 years | world-news | Hindustan Times
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In pics: ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ circus performs its last act after 146 years

The finale, announced in January, came a year after Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and agreed to stop using elephants in its performances.

world Updated: May 22, 2017 07:51 IST
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson hugs a member of the crew after the circus' red unit gave its final performance in Providence.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson hugs a member of the crew after the circus' red unit gave its final performance in Providence.(AP File Photo)

The clowns, animal acts and acrobats of the storied Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus took their final bow at an arena outside New York on Sunday, with a space-themed balancing act kicking off the farewell performance of the “Greatest Show on Earth” after nearly 150 years.

Capping a legacy that stretches back to 19th century showman PT Barnum, the circus bade adieu at a series of shows this weekend at the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on New York’s Long Island.

“It’s incredibly heartwarming to see all of you that have come out for the final performance,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive of parent Feld Entertainment Inc, said at the show, which was sold out and live streamed on the Ringling website.

He said more than 250 million people had seen Ringling’s shows and added: “It’s the people, it’s the spirit, the dedication, the perseverance of everyone that you’ll see here tonight that makes the impossible possible.”

Trapeze artists perform on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus. (AFP Photo)

Spacesuited tightrope walkers Laszlo Simet and his wife, Olga, launched the final show on a slowly revolving wedge-shaped wheel. Among the stunts, she did a headstand on his shoulders and Laszlo Simet rode a bicycle around the wheel’s rim while carrying his wife and another performer.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson stages the final farewell presentation of the Ringling Bros. (AFP Photo)

The finale, announced by Feld in January, came a year after the company bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and agreed to stop using elephants in its performances. A featured attraction for more than a century, the elephants had come to symbolise the Ringling Bros brand.

Jonathan Lee Iverson performs in the closing number on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus. (AFP Photo)
Gymnasts perform during the last show of the Ringling Bros. (Reuters Photo)

Feld decided to fold its tent as a result of high operating costs combined with lower ticket sales, it said in a statement at the time. After phasing out the elephants, the owner said, the decline in attendance was “greater than could have been anticipated”.

Ringling Bros continued to showcase tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels until the end, despite fierce criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Big cat trainer Alexander Lacey hugs one of the tigers. (AP Photo)
A performance by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus features the Desert Goddesses camels. (AP File Photo)

The animal rights group tied Ringling’s demise to its long-standing resistance to demands that it stop using animals. The circus has long defended its treatment of animals as humane.

“Our audiences today loved seeing horses, dogs and two very talented 700-pound (317-kg) pigs,” Feld spokesperson Stephen Payne said on Sunday.

Tiger trainer Taba Maluenda performs with a white tiger during a show in Providence. (AP File Photo)

The 13 Asian elephants used in Ringling’s two touring companies were retired to the company’s 200-acre (80-hectare) Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Florida.

Fewer than 40,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. About 250 are in captivity in the United States, 26 of which were born in the past 20 years at Ringling facilities.

Alexander Lacey directs one of the lions during the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (AP Photo)
Members of PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- picket on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus in Uniondale, New York. (AFP Photo)
People pose for pictures in front of a trailer after watching a show on the last day of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (Reuters Photo)