Curtain falls on 'Greatest Show on Earth' after 146 years

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson poses for a portrait before taking part in the last weekend of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.

The final curtain fell late Sunday on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, known widely as "the Greatest Show on Earth".

"Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop".

It is all tragic to Gary Payne, a former president of the 2,000-member Circus Fans Association of America. Ringling had been targeted by organizations like PETA who consider forcing animals, such as elephants, to perform cruel.

He said every circus has used Ringling Brothers as its compass and inspiration. "It has been the home for performers that will go on start their own circuses, and in many ways might be cultivating the next greatest show on earth".

A May 1 advertisement for the circus in the Burlington Free Press tells readers to expect a "stupendous herd of ponderous performing elephants" including one named "Sampson, Madagascar's giant brute!"

Gene Goldstein, center right, and his family stop for a photo outside the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., which is hosting the final performances of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Saturday, May 20, 2017.

Her sister, Dawn Mirowitz, 42, of Dix Hills, New York, sobered as she pondered a future without the Ringling Brothers circus.

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It was the "Greatest Show on Earth", a big, calamitous spectacle of wide-eyed wonder. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows.

"It'll be in the memories of many people for years to come", he said, adding, "It doesn't feel good, of course, you know that such a storied institution is at its end, but everything comes to an end".

Ringling Bros. had two touring circuses this past season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island.

During Sunday's final performance, Alexander Lacey, the circus's big cat trainer, addressed the animal-rights issue directly, pausing from his act to tell the crowd that the circus had bred, raised and cared for 500 lions and tigers - on display Sunday night, he said, were the circus's ninth generation of tigers and 11th generation of lions.

You can also watch a live stream of the show beginning at 6 pm CST on, Facebook live or YouTube.

"We are the keepers of the stories of shows like Ringling Bros we are here to preserve that", Saloutos said.

Like numerous show's 300 human performers, Vargas said, she plans to take a break before seeking out new opportunities, perhaps in Europe, where many of her castmates hail from.

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