Changing tastes and ongoing controversies fueled the circus' demise.
After nearly a century and a half of high-flying acrobatics, clowns on stilts, and exotic elephant acts, the Ringling Bros. circus announced its intention to close in May of this year.
The circus was a beloved part of childhood to many kids in the U.S. for decades, though its amusements were not without controversy.
Crowds waned over the past several decades as tastes in entertainment changed and activist groups alleged cruelty against animals used in the show. Some counties and cities banned the use of elephants for entertainment, forcing the circus to announce in March 2015 that they would phase out their traveling elephants and allow them to retire.
The final shows set to take place in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island in May are already sold out, according to the Associated Press, and resale tickets are going for up to $2,000 per seat.
“We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren't successful in finding the solution,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of the company that owns the circus, told AP.
Before the show closes, take a look back at some of the moments of whimsy and joy of the Ringling Bros. circus over the past century.