I’ve seen Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus a number of times, but not in recent years — and that of course is the problem. The 146 year old traveling show is coming to an end, done in by flagging ticket sales. Attendance dropped off even more after the show ended the elephant acts, prodded by PETA who called it cruel and unusual to make these dignified animals dance.
The idea of a traveling circus — even without the old fashioned canvas tent, which was where the show started — is certainly quaint. At one point, having the circus come to America’s small towns was one of the biggest events all year. Now, via the internet, all forms of entertainment are available to anyone with a computer or hand-held device all the time.
About 400 people will lose their jobs, which is a drop in the bucket nationally — although not for the families for whom traveling with the circus has been a way of life. The animals will have to be farmed out somewhere. The circus acts will no doubt fade into history — there’s no market for them any more. The side shows went by the boards years ago; it’s been a long time since people paid to see the bearded lady, or the Siamese twins, or the sword swallower or what we used to call midgets.
I remember seeing the circus live, but I doubt Sara and Matt do, even though they went as kids. I’d be shocked if Matt and Amy made any attempt to take Archie and Else before the lights go dark. There’s a Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and soon enough that’s all that will be left.