It might have been a long time in coming, but the closure of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has to be considered a sad departure for literally billions of people who have seen the world’s best circus performers live. The news was just announced to the public and the company’s current 500 employees after two shows in Miami and Orlando.
What started as an independent presentation of exotic animals and human oddities over 146 years ago, eventually evolved into what became the first modern circus when Phineas Taylor Barnum joined forces with an entertainment troupe known as the Ringling Brothers back in 1876.
Through their combined efforts, they began attracting eccentric and odd entertainers that performed amazing feats of daring and beauty. There was a time in U.S. entertainment history when securing tickets for the “Greatest Show on Earth” was nearly impossible for people who didn’t have the right connections.
When asked why the circus was being shut down in May of this year, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment had this to say: “There isn’t any one thing. This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.” Feld Entertainment actually purchased the circus group from the founding families in 1967. The company also owns the right to popular shows like Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live.
There were a number of issues that made the closure eminent. Aside from the rising costs of salaries and venue rentals, the viewing population was in steady decline. Much of this decline was prompted by negative exposure brought by the animal advocacy group PETA. Over the last 30 years, that organization has been a constant thorn in Circus’ side, which eventually caused concern among circus goers, who became hesitant about supporting anything that could be associated with animal cruelty.