‘Greatest Show on Earth’ to take final bow in Providence

Kristen Michelle Wilson
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — “The Greatest Show on Earth” is set to take its final bow in Providence.

One of the two tours of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will be giving its very last performances at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this weekend.

This comes after Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the iconic circus, announced earlier this year that the show would end in May.

The ‘Circus XTREME’ tour will kick off Thursday and will run through Sunday.

The other traveling group will continue for an additional two weeks and finish on May 21 in New York.

The company told The Associated Press this week that the final circus show on the evening of May 21 will be streamed live on Facebook as well as on the circus’s website. That final performance will be in Uniondale, New York.

A decline in ticket sales and high operating costs are blamed for the end of the show’s 146-year run. In 2016, the elephants were also retired from the show amid a great deal of controversy and criticism from animal rights activists.

While the show’s performers scramble to line up jobs, arrangements are being made for the animals.

“I was sad and I was shocked. You know we are older than Major League Baseball. We’re older than Coca Cola. We’re not something you really think is going to disappear, at least not in our lifetime,” says circus performer Matthew Lish.

Fellow circus performer Ivan Vargas says, “We’re going to give 110% every performance until the very end.”

Animal activists have long pushed to stop the circus, over animal cruelty concerns. Although circus is ending, activists say the fight isn’t over yet.

A group called ‘Defenders of Animals’ is planning a protest in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The group says Ringling has refused to turn all its animals over to ‘true’ sanctuaries and won’t promise not to rent its animals to other circuses. A circus spokesman called the claim ‘absurd’.

Circus performer Victoria Gsilak says all of the animals already have homes and says the tigers will be going to a sanctuary.