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A Final Bow For The Greatest Show On Earth

Julie Jacobson
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson, center right, hugs a member of the crew after the circus' red unit gave its final performance in Providence, R.I.

The Greatest Show on Earth came to an end Sunday night after nearly a century and a half. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus put on its final performance at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Last night Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson delivered his final introduction for the circus.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, I am your ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson, who’s ready for the circus? Who’s ready for the Greatest Show on Earth?”

The circus’s last performance offered everything you’d expect – wild animals, contortionists, acrobats and clowns who performed death-defying tightrope routines to circus music.

And it came with an impassioned farewell to the audience from owner Kenneth Feld.

“It’s always been our goal to be able to share with families the incredible experience, the joy, the happiness and the wonderment of the Greatest Show on Earth. And I think we’ve accomplished that goal.”

Dana Barnum – a relative of P.T. Barnum by marriage – attended the last show. She says she fell in love with the circus as a girl. It inspired her to become a professional clown.

“You are taken away from everything else in the world at the time. It’s just nothing but positive. And that’s what P.T. Barnum created, that’s what the Greatest Show on Earth is – it’s an experience.”

Attendance had dropped for the circus in recent years. The company stopped using elephants last year after it faced intense criticism from animal rights advocates. It says it’s found homes for all its horses, lions and other wild animals.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.