Thousands of kindergartners and other elementary students from around the region came by the busload to downtown Baltimore this afternoon to experience the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at one of the final shows ever in the long history of “the greatest show on Earth.”
Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Chris Kaltenbach called the circus, which opened a mere 146 years ago, an “American institution” as he recounted the story of a man who couldn’t allow his grandkids to miss the experience.
“We are selling miracles,” the New York Times quoted Johnathan Lee Iverson, the last ringmaster, as saying. “I don’t care how old you get, how much technology advances, people will always be enamored with other people flying and doing daring things.”
Not just people, either. The elephants, which once took a day from the start of the show’s annual appearance in Baltimore to walk down the streets on parade, were retired last year, and ticket sales, which were already slumping, really took a hit after that, the Sun reported.
“Historically speaking, it was an absolutely phenomenal experience when the circus came to town,” the paper quoted Jerry Apps, author of Ringlingville, USA, as saying. “Remember, when the Ringlings were getting themselves organized as a circus, there were even few zoos in this country. And [the circus] had this wonderful traveling menagerie with them.”
But all good things end, and change is the only certainty in our world. Part of this circus’s downfall may, in fact, have been its “greatest show on Earth” scale: circuses that aren’t quite as big manage to make their nut and thrive across the land, while Ringling Brothers simply crumbled under its own weight.
That doesn’t affect the kids of all ages who came here today and will see this show at Royal Farms Arena until this crew, one of two that crisscross America and have found a home in the circus, leaves on April 30. Show times are 7:30 PM Thursdays through Saturdays, 10:30 AM Fridays, 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM Saturdays, 1 PM and 5 PM Sundays.