You have entertained us from generation to generation. You were part of the American way for families. Children of all ages were breathless when your big silver circus trains stopped and the elephants paraded down the street to the circus grounds. You were Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — the Greatest Show on Earth. Your grandpa told you that, and his great-grandpa said the same thing. Everyone believed it for 146 years.
From one ring to another, you thrilled us. Always three rings on the sawdust that gave a sweet essence to the turf. Hawkers called out, “Hot roasted peanuts” and “Buy your kiddies a circus balloon.”
Now you are done. Closing. It’s over.
YOU DID what you did best. You ran a circus like no other. You were brilliant. You were a gateway for young and old to explore the world, to gawk at long-necked giraffes and hear lions roar. And there was always authentic joy when red-nosed clowns with big paddle shoes made the audience laugh. I know, I have clowned with your show.
At 7 p.m. tonight, after two performances earlier in the day, you will exit your space in the entertainment world. You will say goodbye to your performers, take down the trapeze and close your circus, the final performances in a coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
There are many explanations why. Business was limping, lifestyles changed. You got rid of your elephants and attendance dropped. Circuses were old-fashioned. Nothing seemed to be right for Ringling, except reasonably profitable crowds and the chill of watching the man get shot out of the cannon.
So today, the question begs. Why has the magnificent Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey failed?
KENNETH FELD, owner of Ringling Bros. and Feld Entertainment, blames the competition of a changing world. People gravitate to bright lights of the computer screen and video games and monster truck shows.
Once, the circus was a treat that brought the family together. Now, the world seems bent on keeping them apart, everyone staring at the blinking device in their hands.
Seeing the final curtain fall should remind us that as parents and grandparents, we must protect the unity of our families.
What is going to happen to the children who no longer will have the Greatest Show on Earth to thrill them?
(Thanks to Brad Deutscher whose comments were parts of this column. He previously worked for the Ringling show and is now with a consulting firm.)