Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is Closing


After almost 150 years, the Greatest Show on Earth is closing its doors.
Official website and announcement: https://www.ringling.com/

After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® will hold its final performances in May of this year. Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.

Personally, I’m planning to make the pilgrimage to Rhode Island for the final show, if I can get tickets. As an entertainer, and someone who’s toured and worked in technical theatre, Ringling Brothers has had a distinct, albeit indirect, effect on my life.


I’ve always wanted to like the circus … I never really went to one growing up, and maybe that was part of the fascination. But, as a grown up, as I learned more about the treatment of animals, I found it difficult to set that aside and go see the circus with the kids. We’ve never taken them. I know there are circuses that do not use animals, but the animal acts were part of the mystique for me…

… well, there’s always the Harlem Globetrotters… the kids enjoyed that. And as far as I can tell, they are treated fairly well :slight_smile:


I wonder why they didn’t hook up with a casino in Vegas. Seems like a natural.


How sad! I haven’t seen them in many years, and maybe that’s the problem. But even as an adult I loved the acrobats, and the Ringmaster was unbelievable. As I recall, even then they were easing off the animals, but you just gotta have some elephants!


I wouldn’t rule it out for the future. The family that owns RBB&B isn’t going under- they also own some other shows, like Marvel Live and Disney on Ice. They will presumably still own all the IP for the circus.

I’d actually go so far as to speculate that the very next new casino that opens up in Vegas may end up in talks with them, unless Circus Circus has something to say about it.


I’ll guess it’s perhaps because Cirque du Soleil has the big market cornered, with Circus Circus filling in the gap of traditional acts? Not even sure if Big Apple Circus has any footing here.
I haven’t seen a Ringling/Barnum show in years, but it’s my assumption that there’s been the push towards the contemporary style of circus (hence Barnum’s Kaleidoscope) and the traditional circus has been declining sharply in popularity.


Ringling/Barnum holds a very special place in my heart, because a family friend, Gloria - a widow who loved children - would take me to see the circus whenever they were in town (the Blue Angels too, her deceased husband had been a pilot). I saw Gloria again at her death bed about three years ago, and got to say farewell.

We would have both been satisfied if there were no animal acts; our favorite parts were the clown acts. I absolutely loved the clowns.


I remember going to the circus in a huge arena as a kid and loving the elephants, being vaguely annoyed by the slapstick clown act that never seemed to end, and being utterly entranced by the acrobats. Flying through the air and landing in a giant net looked wonderful.

I also remember the souvenir hawkers walking up and down the aisles selling, of all things, chameleons in plastic cages, which I was told I couldn’t buy because they would die.


What the hell! First Big Apple and now Ringling? The company that had two tours out at once?

Jesus, the phrase “ran away with the circus” is now going to basically just mean you worked with a silks act for a weekend.


Odd they didn’t have the sense to pivot to a more modern circus style instead of trying to do “Barnum minus elephants.”


Barnum did. But the Big Apple, which was exactly what you describe for the past 20 years, also closed last year.

It’s the medium, not the content.


Keep an eye out for the small one ring shows that are just people acts and if there are animals it is horse riding. Still lots of fun and great to see. I never made it to Ringling Brothers but as I got older and learned of the animal treatment I got more ambivalent about it.
Circus Flora was the last proper circus with an elephant I have seen and Flora is rescue and her part in the show was just walking around the ring while the ring master explained why elephant acts are not good for them. She is now in a sancuary.
They do tour and you should go see them or any show like them for sure.


Stopped by the Eli Whitney museum today (daughter taking a photo class) and saw this…


Not sure about that.

Circus skills had a big resurgence over the last twenty years or so; not just Cirque de Soleil.

Woodford (Australia’s biggest & best music festival) has two dedicated circus stages running for a week each year. No animal torture, but plenty of juggling, acrobatics, ropewalking, comedy, etc.

There is currently an unprecedented amount of good circus stuff to be seen. It’s just that it’s moved beyond the shallow fetishisation of exotica.



At least it is not “going away”! I hate it when people say that about something which is ceasing and not actually going anywhere.


I hate to see animals mistreated, and I know that some shows/animals/trainers are better or worse than others-

But a big part of me feels like this might be the only chance a lot of kids get to see some of these animals in person- And I can’t help wondering how many of those kids could grow up to be the next Jane Goodall or Steve Irwin or Rachel Carson or Jaques Cousteau, and whether that might not happen without that experience.


There are better ways to do that than circus.


Well, 10,200 miles is a little further than I can travel…

But seriously, that illustrates sort of my point- There’s a small zoo in York and one in Boston, but that’s it for pretty much all of Northern New England. One of the defining characteristics of the circus has always been that it would travel to wherever there were people.

I know that when I was growing up near Chicago, we used to go to Franklin Park Zoo pretty frequently. Once I moved to NH (age 7), I don’t think I ever got to another one. There was just no way anyone was driving me 3 hours for that.


One of the reasons I chose that link was because that isn’t the one in Sydney: it’s the regional branch out in the middle of rural small-town NSW. In outback NSW, a three-hour drive just means that you’re going to the post office.

Taronga-Sydney moved most of their big animals out to the country a few decades ago. There just isn’t enough room to house them humanely in the city.

Any decent zoo should have an active engagement program with regional schools, including travelling educators.

Besides, rural Australian kids aren’t exactly lacking in experience with wildlife. :slight_smile:


Western Plains is how it should be done. That self-promoting theme park up at Buderim is… probably humane enough.
But the difference between the two is staggering. If no circuses means we miss out on yet another bloody Irwin, I’m not seeing the downside TBH.