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Legacy Of Bridgeport's P.T. Barnum Ends As Ringling Bros. Circus Shuts Down

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey -- which was founded by P.T. Barnum -- a former Bridgeport resident and Bethel native -- will now be closing.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey -- which was founded by P.T. Barnum -- a former Bridgeport resident and Bethel native -- will now be closing. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Elephants that were once part of the Ringling Bros. circus
Elephants that were once part of the Ringling Bros. circus Photo Credit: Ringling Bros. Facebook page
Bethel native and former Bridgeport resident P.T. Barnum
Bethel native and former Bridgeport resident P.T. Barnum Photo Credit: wikipedia
Acrobats in the Ringling Bros. circus
Acrobats in the Ringling Bros. circus Photo Credit: Ringling Bros. Facebook page
Tigers in the Ringling Bros. circus
Tigers in the Ringling Bros. circus Photo Credit: Ringling Bros. website

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — It's the end of an era: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has deep ties to Bridgeport, announced it will be folding for good this May after 146 years of entertaining crowds around the world with its traveling show.

"The Greatest Show On Earth" was founded in part by Bethel native P.T. Barnum, Bridgeport's favorite son and onetime mayor.

The decision to close down the circus is due to a drop in attendance, the departure of the elephants from the show and high operating costs, said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, producer of the circus.

“Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company,” Feld said in an online statement.

But not everyone is sad about the demise of the circus. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals blamed the end of the circus on its mistreatment of animals.

“Thirty-six years of PETA protests, of documenting animals left to die, beaten animals, and much more, has reduced attendance to the point of no return," said an online statement from PETA.

"All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, should be aware that 'society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them,'” PETA said.

In the statement, PETA thanked all those who have been a part of the effort to shut down the circus — "everyone who has picked up a protest sign, passed out leaflets, written letters, shared videos, called legislators, spoken to family, and been part of this relentless pursuit of freedom for animals. This would not have happened without you," PETA said.

Feld said it stopped using elephants in the circus last May 1, blaming the legal issues involved not the protests of animal rights groups.

Feld said he and his family will miss the circus and everyone who was involved in it. “The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make," he said.

Aside from Ringling Bros., Feld Entertainment also owns Marvel Universe LIVE!, Monster Jam, Monster Energy Supercross and Disney On Ice, among others. The company recently announced a new partnership to produce live tours of "Sesame Street."

"Without Ringling Bros., we wouldn’t have the vibrant live entertainment company that we have today. Ringling Bros. will always be part of Feld Entertainment, and its spirit will live on in every production and project we do."

Bridgeport still honors P.T. Barnum with the annual Barnum Festival, which was founded in 1948 to honor Phineas Taylor Barnum – world-renowned showman, businessman, entertainer and community leader. It runs every year from mid-May through June and in true Barnum tradition, a Ringmaster is appointed each year to entertain everyone.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Circus XTREME will conclude its tour at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on May 7, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Out Of This World will conclude its tour at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21.

Closer to home, shows will also be held in Hartford from April 27 to April 30 and in Brooklyn, N.Y. from Feb. 23 to March 3.

Complete details on the remaining circus performances can be found by clicking here .

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