Reflections on Ringling Brothers

I read this weekend that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be ceasing operations this May.

When I was a kid in the mid to late 1970s and the early 1980s, I used to spend a lot of time visiting my grandparents and uncle in Brooklyn, New York. Though I originally hail from there, most of my childhood was spent living in Connecticut (and a few other places). However, I did spend part of kindergarten living with my grandparents and spent many school vacations there.

While my grandfather took me to a ton of places in New York City, for whatever reason it was my uncle who would take me to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus every April vacation at Madison Square Garden. I also remember seeing it at the Hartford Civic Center as part of a high school band trip back in 1989 (also notable at that trip I picked up a trade paperback copy of The Dark Knight Returns on that school trip).

I used to have a blast at the circus. For whatever reason I remember these cheap flip-top flashlights that'd be attached to nylon strings and twirled around by the audience when the lights dimmed. Though the animals were a highlight for most (my uncle loved watching animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams) though I have to confess I really liked the acrobatics - I especially remember a contraption called "the wheel of death". 

I'm not too shocked they are ceasing operations - the last time I myself went was 1989. I'd thought of taking my kids, but it was never something that particularly interested them - tastes change with generations. I'm not qualified enough to judge the allegations of animal cruelty or how much of a difference their decision to retire their elephants further diminished ticket sales. I am thinking about sneaking a trip to one of the final shows if I can manage it. Best wishes to all impacted by this.


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