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Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:11 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:10 PM
ELLENTON, Fla. — After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.
The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.
"There isn't any one thing," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. "This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family."
The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.
Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.
The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.
By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn't have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.
"The competitor in many ways is time," said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers' children— are throwbacks to another era. "It's a different model that we can't see how it works in today's world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you've got all these things working against it."
The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.
"Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes," he said.
Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company's chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.
"After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times," Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was "bittersweet" for the Felds but said: "I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts."
In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.
By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.
Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a "dramatic drop" in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn't want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.
"We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants," she said. "We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role."
The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.
Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company's other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.
Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.
In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:03 AM
WINTHROP, Mass. — While Boston is very rich in history and culture, most people don't expect to find artifacts dating from the 1800s inside the walls of their homes.
Nick Murphy was one of those people, until he began to renovate his parents' home in Winthrop and found glimpses to the past hiding in the ceiling.
Some of the items Murphy found included door hinges, a comb and personal items such as letters and a dance card.
"I started pulling the ceiling down and I noticed newspaper clippings coming down with it," said Murphy.
One of the items, a dance card, was written out when Chester Arthur was president of the United States.
"1884, this was held by somebody who was actually going to attend a ball," said Murphy.
Another letter, decades apart from the dance card, was written in 1942 and details the interactions between a brother and a sister.
"That letter is from the World War II era and it’s between a brother and a sister," said Murphy. The sister's name is Edith and that's who it is addressed to. It’s talking about getting Edith out of WW2 and out of the navy and it talks about the impending surrender of the Germans and the Japanese."
Murphy says he doesn't know if these items belonged to people who once lived in his parents' home, but know these items all come with a story that he hopes will live on.
"For us, it’s this preserved piece of history, but for them it was their actual day to day life - it was just interesting to find it," said Murphy.
Murphy says that after he's done with renovating the room, his next project will be to frame up all those items and hang them on the walls of that room as a tribute.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:11 AM
— Two Florida airmen were among seven killed in a helicopter crash Thursday in Iraq.
Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron out of Patrick Air Force Base.
Enis and Posch were serving in combat roles, as they had before on multiple overseas deployments during their Air Force careers, according to a release from the 920th Rescue Wing.
Posch was an 18-year Air Force veteran who was recently part of a rescue mission at sea to save two German sailors whose sailboat caught fire last July.
He deployed for multiple rescue missions in Texas during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Posch's family and friends shared photos of him on social media, saying he was a father.
Our friend Bill Posch who celebrated July 4th at our house and pool was KILLED in Iraq along with several other soldiers this week. He will be remember forever. He leaves behind children and was a great patriot.— Frank from Florida 🇺🇸🏝☀️🇺🇸 #KeepAmericaGreat (@RealFrankFromFL) March 18, 2018
RT in remembrance of this great American hero#SundayMorning pic.twitter.com/QnTCIdIRyA
Early this AM we learned of this tragic loss in our US Air Force Pararescue community as well as right here in our local...Posted by Tory Summer Jordan on Friday, March 16, 2018
Four airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, New York, were also killed:
Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, was also killed in the crash. He was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
The Pave Hawk went down at 6:45 p.m. Thursday near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province near the Syrian border.
The helicopter was on a routine flight between two towns, according to officials quoted by The Associated Press and Stars and Stripes.
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement about the airmen's deaths on Sunday:
"The loss of Master Sgt. William R. Posch, Staff Sgt. Carl Enis and their fellow armed service members is devastating. The deaths of these brave men serve as a solemn reminder of the sacrifice and commitment made by our nation’s military to secure and protect the freedom we all cherish as Americans. Ann and I know Staff Sgt. Enis’ family personally, and we grieve with them today. I ask that every Floridian pause to remember Master Sgt. William R. Posch and Staff Sgt. Enis and all of those lost in this tragedy.”
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:42 AM
BRADFORD, England — She had a job to do and recent snowfall wasn’t going to stop her from getting home after a long day at work.
A woman, known only as Pam, was recently seen walking home while a news crew in Bradford, England, was doing a story, Metro reported.
As it turned out, Pam was taking a long walk home, 5 miles in snow and wind, after working the night shift caring for three men who have learning disabilities.
Pam is 70 years old.
Can we all take a moment to appreciate this lady? While filming today we spotted her walking through deep #snow drifts, offered her a lift, turns out she's a carer. She couldn't get a bus or taxi home from her nightshift and had to walk. She's 70. pic.twitter.com/nwERFJE4rF— Corinne Wheatley (@CorinneWheatley) March 18, 2018
She told Corrine Wheatley, the reporter with the BBC who recorded Pam’s trip, “You can’t leave them on their own. You’ve got a duty of care really. You’ve got to do it, even at 70!”
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:51 AM
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:51 AM
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A large 20-vehicle crash on I-270 in Maryland has been declared a “mass casualty incident,” multiple news outlets are reporting.