The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is making its final farewell this spring. The spectacular marvels were witnessed by Tampa children and adults alike, as the iconic tradition rolled into town one last time. Eight sold out performances in the bay area showed just how important the circus has been to past spectators.
Most of the key attractions boasted by the company as the “Greatest Show on Earth,” were in attendance. The tiger tamer Tabayara Maluenda, from Chile, celebrated his birthday on Jan 28th. He turned to the audience and introduced his mother who came to see his last performance. The sentimental entertainer shared his happiness and pride with his mother and audience as he talked about his success. He finished his act with all 13 of the trained tigers lined up in front of him on their hind legs with their paws in the air. “I came here to see the tigers and the woman shot from the cannon!” Ana Valdez, a local Tampa resident exclaimed. “I loved every minute of it!”
The death defying woman Nitro Nicole, who was shot out of a high-powered cannon, made her appearance as she has in the past. Trapeze artists, strongmen, bumbling clowns, walking poodles, extreme bikers, and the man who walks on the outside of the spinning circle over 25ft into the air, all made their appearances.
The circus also touted Kristen Wilson, the first ever female ringmaster in the company’s long history. It is bittersweet because she got the job earlier this year, only to learn of the circus’ closure soon after. Her voice and presence was on full display as she narrated the wild event and introduced unseen acts to the young kids enjoying the show.
Also, mostly overlooked, the Tampa community enjoyed the common food items found in the circus atmosphere. Vendors walked up and down the aisles selling multi-flavored snow cones, popcorn, and large bags of bright cotton candy. Carnival games and colorful children’s entertainment booths were found around the venues as well. The smiles on everyone’s faces as the crowd departed Amalie Arena, displayed how stories of going to the famous circus will live on for more generations to come.
The reasons behind the closure of the 146-year-old American institution have started piling up over recent years. Animal rights activist organizations have placed increased public pressure on companies like Ringling Bros. because some animals have received a less than adequate lifestyle. Very low ticket sales and high operating costs also factored in to the closure. The public disappointment after seeing the world-renowned elephants leave the famous circus did not seem to help matters as well.
Before the invention of smartphones, televisions, and even the telephone, the circus was a top form of entertainment. The timespan of this magnificent event dates back to before the Great Depression. The well-known seven Ringling Brothers hailed from Wisconsin. Five of them founded the now world famous company by seeing a small circus show in their local town when they were young. Taking that small idea and running with it, they began a show with juggling routines, comedy, weightlifting and acrobatics. As the boys got older they came to study and learn new trades and their show keep evolving and progressing form there. The traveled from town to town and generated huge name recognition and built the company into a worldwide empire that revolutionized the entertainment industry.