This weekend sees a nostalgic and sad farewell to “The Greatest Show on Earth” as performers put on a display for the last time. Fans of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will recall much-loved childhood memories, while newbies will be able to cross the circus off their bucket list, just in time.

146-year run comes to an end for the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus this weekend ends the 146-year run of one of the world’s biggest and most popular circuses. It was announced back in January this year by Feld Entertainment – Ringling’s parent company – that the circus would end this year.

Executives blamed declining attendance, along with high operating costs, on their decision to close the circus.

Ringling Brothers putting on a show for the very last time

Saturday afternoon saw crowds of people streaming into New York’s Nassau Coliseum to both pay their last respects and to enjoy their final viewing. WMBF News quotes Melissa Angevine of Walton, NY, as saying how sad she was that it is now all over. Angevine said she and her husband and two kids drove for four hours Saturday to watch one of the final shows. She added the circus is a pastime that people don’t get to enjoy these days, adding that everyone is into their tablets and phones, instead of going out and enjoying different forms of entertainment.

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Heather Greenberg, 46, of New York City said she was becoming an adult that day, adding she can’t go to the circus with her daddy anymore. Greenberg was there with her parents, sister and three children, along with some extended family, and they laughed and joked as they headed into the final performance. Her sister Dawn Mirowitz, 42, said it was sad they would never have the chance to take their grandchildren to the Ringling Brothers circus.

Ringling Brothers circus animals to retire to new homes

While circus fans are sad to see the “Greatest Show on Earth” end, the nice part about the closure is that the animals who worked in the Ringling Brothers circus have already been found new homes, including the horses, tigers and camels.

This is good news indeed for many animal activists who have been fighting against the use animals in circuses.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the U.S. have been at the fore in protests against the way the circus treated the animals. Many circus goers saw the animal activists as they headed into the show, with protesters shouting for the circus to be boycotted.

Lisa Lange, senior VP of Communications for PETA, said when they were founded in 1980 one of their first targets was the Ringling Brothers circus. She believes that the activists’ protests may have played a big role in changing the attitude of the public relating to the circus, possibly leading to the drop in ticket sales. She said there is a general change in public awareness about animals and their treatment.

As reported by NPR, the closing of the Ringling Brothers circus comes in the wake of SeaWorld’s decision to no longer breed captive orcas and to halt their live theatrical shows.

Livestream of the last Ringling Brothers circus

There were three performances on Saturday, which will be followed by three more on Sunday. According to the circus, their very final performance will be streamed on Facebook Live and on their website. The last, livestreamed performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus can also be viewed here on Sunday, May 21 at 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.