As the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed its second-to-last show Sunday afternoon, 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.
The farewell show, at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on New York's Long Island, was a sell-out, bringing the curtain down on a legacy dating back to 1871, Reuters reports.
Ringling had been targeted by organizations like PETA who consider forcing animals, such as elephants, to perform cruel.
Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it would close the production, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.
Trapeze artists perform on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus.
The Center for Elephant Conservation will continue its work, but the lions, tigers, kangaroos, llamas and other exotic animals featured in the shows will be placed in suitable homes, the AP reported.
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The final show was shot through with moments in which performers broke the fourth wall to reflect on the end.
"We are the keepers of the stories of shows like Ringling Bros we are here to preserve that", Saloutos said. The owners called the final show a "celebration" and blamed the more technological hobbies of younger generations for causing the decline in interest of the show.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a major critic of the circus for its treatment of animals, celebrated the announcement.
For over 146 years Ringling Bros.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, left, and his daughter Lila Simone and son Matthew Felipe wave farewell to the audience at the end of the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. And Barnum & Bailey Circus shows has decreased sharply since the company made a decision to stop using elephants. On those service cars, these people live a life outside and away from the controversies that have surrounded their show over the last several years.
O'Donnell, the museum director, said he hoped the Ringling Bros. circus would be remembered for its special place in history, but looked forward to seeing the future of the industry. That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend had a narrative storyline. Circus World will remain open, holding live performances and keeping the circus museum running.