Ringling Bros. circus to shutter in May after 146 years

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One of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus' performing elephants enters the arena for it's final show in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 1, 2016. The company that owns the circus announced on Saturday that performances would end in May 2017, after 146 years in operation. Photo By Andrew Kelly/Reuters

One of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ performing elephants enters the arena for it’s final show in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 1, 2016. The company that owns the circus announced on Saturday that performances would end in May 2017, after 146 years in operation. Photo By Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will shut down in May after 146 years in operation, the company that runs the show said late Saturday.

Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros., said Saturday in a statement that slumping ticket sales, high operating costs and the company’s decision last year to eliminate elephants from performances made continuing the circus “unsustainable.”

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Feld, whose family acquired the Ringling Bros. in 1967, said closing the circus was a difficult decision.

“It’s been through world wars, and it’s been through every kind of economic cycle and it’s been through a lot of change,” Feld told the Associated Press of the circus’s storied history. “In the past decade there’s been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that. And I think it isn’t relevant to people in the same way.”

Last year, the Ringling Bros. ended the use of elephants in its performances after animal rights’ groups and others campaigned against the practice, transferring 11 animals to a 200-acre facility in Florida.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its final performances on May 7 in Providence, Rhode Island, and on May 21 in Uniondale, New York.

“Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros.,” Feld said. “The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make.”

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