Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Logo)

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closes after 146 years

Source: https://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlSxkf?m=en-us

As a passionate fan of Cy Coleman’s “Barnum” and the extraordinary life that Phineas Taylor lived, this saddens me. Although the sadness was slightly bolstered by listening to the finale of the show, “Join The Circus.”

Reading through the article and talking about it with my wife, there were several curious nuggets that emerged from the discussion that I wanted to share.

  • The article mentions shorter attention spans as one reason why circus attendance has declined and I wonder if maybe a Saturday morning cartoon where the circus has to solve mysteries or something might not have helped with that. I also wonder if it might even help people be less afraid of clowns playing detective.
  • Despite winning a civil court battle regarding “allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants”, the circus continued to face negative pressure from animal rights groups and municipalities (in the form of local ordinance changes like “Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers…[and] Asheville, North Carolina [banning] wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center”) that in May of last year “they removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida” (which isn’t Disney’s Animal Kingdom in case you were wondering). They’ll continue operating the conservation farm after the circus closes, but with things like this and Blackfish (which, to be fair, I haven’t viewed), I can’t help being puzzled over the whole thing. Especially given this statement from the article.
  • Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

  • While I don’t have concrete memories of actually attended a performance of the circus, it was still very much in both mine and my wife’s consciousness. I would assume that it was either commercials or just the shared group knowledge of pop culture, but maybe it was the romanticism of that bygone error epitomized by many films and theatrical productions including Disney’s “Dumbo”. Media that show you pictures of the circus as a family that travels around the country by train performing amazing acrobatic acts.
  • Speaking of “Dumbo”, are kids who grow up after the circus closes not going to have any frame of reference for the movie? Will I have to explain to my future children what a circus is??? I mean, sure, there are still things like Circus Vargus and Circus, Circus in Las Vegas, but this feels like one of the last great ones passing away and it’s sad.
  • Lastly, to try and end on a happier note, it pleases me to no end that the circus is going to help people who have dedicated their lives to the circus (including living and learning on the train) transition to other jobs and other housing arrangements.

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