The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has entertained crowds for nearly 150 years with its “Greatest Show on Earth” performed its final act on Sunday at an arena outside New York City.
The farewell show, at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on New York’s Long Island, was a sell-out, bringing the curtain down on a legacy dating back to 1871, Reuters reports.
Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it will close the show due to high operating costs and declining attendance figures.
The move also came after animal rights activists took aim at the show, taking issue with the use of elephants and other animals by the performers.
Last year, the company bowed to pressure from activists and agreed to stop using elephants in its performances.
A featured attraction for more than a century, the elephants had come to symbolize the Ringling Bros brand, which was known for its array of clowns, animal acts and acrobats.
After phasing out the elephants, the decline in attendance was “greater than could have been anticipated”, the company said.
Although it retired its elephants, 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 (PETA).
The animal rights group tied Ringling’s demise to its long-standing resistance to demands that it stop using animals.
“Circuses around the world that beat Ringling to the punch in making the decision to stop using animals are thriving. But Ringling stonewalled for decades,” PETA said in a statement Saturday.
The circus has long defended its treatment of animals as humane.
Capping a legacy that stretches back to the legendary 19th century showman P.T. Barnum, the circus bid adieu with a series of shows over the weekend at the Nassau Coliseum.
In December, Ringling Bros named Kristen Michelle Wilson as the first female ringmaster in its 146-year history.
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