On Friday night we headed to Tampa’s Amalie Arena to say goodbye to The Greatest Show on Earth. On January 14, 2017 Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, for almost 50 years of the circus’ 146 year history, announced that The Greatest Show on Earth would close in May of 2017. Citing low ticket sales, high operating costs, pressure from animal rights groups, and the declining attention spans of children as reasons. This broke my heart.
I have been attending the circus since childhood. Growing up we would to travel to Boston to see the circus. When we moved to Florida in 1980, we settled in Venice which was the winter home for the circus. Over my 11 years in Venice I babysat for the children of circus folk, went to school with circus performers, enjoyed the annual circus parade from the train station to the circus grounds, volunteered as an usher for the pre-tour shows that were held at the Venice Circus Arena. My high school graduation was held at the circus arena, affectionately known as the “elephant palace”. As an adult I have taken my children and my friend’s children to see the Greatest Show on Earth. For me, my favorite circus acts have always been the animals, especially the big cats and the elephants. In my opinion, Gunther Gebel-Williams was the best animal trainer ever, and his son Mark did a great job following in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, the elephants left the circus in 2016 under pressure from animal rights activists.
Circus Xtreme 2017
We enjoyed Circus Xtreme, though as has been the case the last few years, the theming was a bit lost in the production. Newcomer and first, and last ever Ringling female Ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson did a good job. Unfortunately, from our seats behind the bandleader, I struggled to get a decent picture of her facing us. I spoke to friends who attended the circus while it was in Tampa and the favorite act was the female human cannonball! She was amazing. Of course, I loved Taba and his tigers, I just wish we could have seen their faces. The addition of slackline, parkour, trampoline, and BMX was a great way to add some more modern acts to the traditional circus.
We truly felt the lack of the elephants at the show. The opening Grand Parade wasn’t very grand without elephants 🙁 Also, this production had no trapeze artists and we missed that too. The camel act was unique and different compared to the usual horse act. My husband enjoyed the dog act the most.