Published: Tue, May 23, 2017
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

Final Curtain For 'The Greatest Show on Earth'

After 146 years of existence, the circus gave its final performance Sunday evening in Uniondale, New York, outside of New York City.

Alexander Lacey and his big cat show were a crowd favourite.

He said more than 250 million people had seen Ringling's shows - with the final one livestreamed on the Ringling website - 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".

The parent company of the circus, Feld Entertainment, Inc., cited the company's decision to phase out the elephant act as a major reason for lower ticket sales.

This weekend was the final chance for fans to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The move came as circuses and animal-performance shows across the country have struggled with declining attendance, shrinking attention spans and shifting social pressure brought to bear by activists who have argued the animals are sometimes poorly treated. Before Sunday night's performance began, Feld himself addressed the crowd, with family members by his side, telling circusgoers, "From the bottom of our hearts we want to say thank you all very much, and please enjoy and celebrate the Greatest Show on Earth one last time".

Elephants were removed from the shows previous year.

Falling ticket sales and high running costs have taken their toll. "I'm seeing people I haven't seen in years".

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The circus had been butting heads with PETA and other animal rights groups for a while.

"The Greatest Show on Earth" ended with a standing ovation after ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson bid them farewell with, "Let's go home and show everyone we are forever more the Greatest Show on Earth!"

Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, speaks before the start of the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. On Saturday, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban NY to pay their last respects to the iconic show.

She has spent the past 10 years organising demonstrations against Ringling as a campaigner with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

He said every circus has used Ringling Brothers as its compass and inspiration. Circusgoers lined up to buy snow cones served in elephant-shaped mugs and snag leopard plush toys - one of which Culff bought for seven-month-old Emily.

Earlier Sunday, a group of retired and former circus performers sat across the street at a hotel bar, laughing and hugging and sharing memories of tours past.

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