Saying Goodbye to The Greatest Show on Earth

Tonight we witnessed the end of an era. The Ringling Bros.® circus that has been around for 146 years, is on its final tour before closing up shop for good. Apparently, ticket sales have been on a steady decline for a while now. And the decision to remove the elephants from the show due to pressure from animal rights activists, caused an even bigger dip. For a business with such high operating costs it was simply time to go.

So naturally, when I heard they were coming through Atlanta I immediately jumped online to get tickets for the family. We went to the circus one time before Kenna (my youngest) was born but neither of my other kids can remember it. They’re a little older now and I thought it would make a great memory for them, especially since we wouldn’t get another chance.

“It’s kinda sad though. This is the first time I’ve been to the circus… but it’s also the last time I’ll go to the circus.”Kenna Basham (age 7)

When we arrived the lobby was covered in the usual array of price gouging carney booths. We debated a bit over which was the better deal, a $15 sno-cone or the $12 lemonade. Both included a souvenir cup but the sno-cone won out since its cup was in the shape of an elephant. Nostalgia for the win I suppose.

After taking out a micro loan with the convenient onsite bank (incidentally the longest line), we headed to our seats armed with popcorn, drinks, and a fistful of souvenirs. We were finally ready for the show to begin. And what a show it was.

Leading the show was Kristen Michelle Wilson, the first ever female Ringmaster. My girls got quite a kick out of that. She got things rolling with a grand entrance onto center stage. After a brief song and dance routine and a bit of dramatic buildup, the main event sprung into action.

There were lots of people hanging from lots of places doing lots of dangerous things. This was my kind of action. Then there were guys balancing on top of chairs on top of other guys walking on a rope stretched 30 feet in the air. Which was obviously completely awesome. I mean who doesn’t love danger from above?

Next there was a group of camels parading around, each with a rider sitting between their humps. I’m no expert but they certainly seemed happy from where we were sitting. The camels I mean. Kind of hard to tell in the low lighting. Perhaps they have a better temperament for that kind of thing than the elephants. I guess anything is an upgrade from traveling across the desert every day.

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So far so good. There were big exciting thrills and lots of really cool animals. When intermission arrived we were having such a blast we didn’t want it to stop. But with young kids a bathroom break is always welcomed. So we took care of business and returned to our seats anxious for the rest of the show. We would not be disappointed.

Next up were the tigers. I counted thirteen of them in the ring with a single man. Oh, and he had a small whip. Thirteen tigers against a man with a small whip. “King of the Jungle” I believe they called him and the idea that he was could be in real danger was thrilling. His daughter was also helping him from outside the ring, tossing in meat to feed to the giant cats. So he treated us to a special circus version dad joke when he shouted, “Any man who wants to be my daughter’s boyfriend come talk to me… inside the ring with the tigers.” Gratuitous but still very much appreciated.

The show continued with a wide range of acrobatic and amazing feats by both human and animal alike. There were trained poodles, a man riding the circle of death, Mongolian strong men, and a female human cannonball. She got shot out of that cannon and flew across the entire arena. It was exhausting just watching her. There was no time to rest though as the X-Games style performers were up next. There were dudes flipping and dancing, dudes doing things on trampolines I’ve never seen, and even more dudes doing aerial stunts on BMX bikes. It was non-stop action until finally, it was nearly time to go.

I felt a little sad as the entire cast filled the stage one last time. Sad it was over. Sad to know all things in life inevitably end. Looking over at my children I knew my time with them would end one day too. But not this day. This day we enjoyed every moment. This day we made memories that will last a lifetime. And maybe one day, when they tell their own children about the time they went to the circus, they’ll do it with a smile on their face and remember what truly matters. A dad can hope anyway.

At the end of show I leaned over to my youngest daughter and asked, “Wasn’t that so much fun Kenna?”

To which she replied, “Yeah dad! It’s kinda sad though. This is the first time I’ve been to the circus… but it’s also the last time I’ll go to the circus. I’m really gonna miss it.”

“Me too baby,” I said. “Me too.”


[Ringling Bros.®]

1 Comment

  1. Kevin
    February 27, 2017 at 3:46 am — Reply

    Good article Brent. I visited Ringling Bros many times when I was a kid and had the chance twice to go “backstage” for autographs. It is sad to see it go.

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