The Greatest Show has a lasting effect

Ringling protests.     perspective  flickr CC BY

Still, Ringling had little choice and did the right thing in retiring its elephants previous year, even if it contributed to the show not going on. According to ABC News, the circus has assured it will find appropriate homes for all of the animals, but has not elaborated on what or where those homes will be.

The group has a total of 30 stops scheduled on its 2017 tour.

While animal rights people celebrated the move, those in Philadelphia's vibrant circus-arts community say the news - while sad - could mark an opening for "contemporary circus to finally thrive".

But it's not the only reason for the circus' end. The circus was under pressure from animal rights activists who claimed the elephants were being treated unfairly.

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

- The circus has been a 146-year tradition, but now, it's just four months away from ending. "It was a surprise", Scott McDonnell, executive director of Circus World said. In my mind, containing wild animals for public display, even in the name of science or conservation, is a tragedy that becomes magnified over time as research continues to inform us on the deep cognitive and emotional intelligence even the simplest animals possess.

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That's played out in Philadelphia with larger contemporary circus companies coming through town, specifically at the Kimmel Center which "has taken notice". Paradoxically, while many said they didn't want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them. It started small, with just a few trained animals. She couldn't believe another part of the circus, the industry she was raised in, was gone.

For many of these performers, the circus is their life.

"It is a family and you don't ever really leave the circus", he said. "Last year, after we retired the elephants from the touring units, we saw a much steeper drop in sales".

At the same time, however, we recognize that millions in the nation and tens of thousands in the Mahoning Valley will feel a deep emotional void that Ringling's absence will create this year.

Parra said the Carson Barnes season will get underway with a show on January 26 in McAllen, Texas. They said the performers are like family, and it's been a hard time.

The circus will have its last show in May. Seeing the eighth generation of her family perform gives her hope for the future of Circus Vargas and other circus companies across the country, she said. It displays circus histories from across America and the world, but the Ringling Bros. circus makes up a majority of the collection.

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