At the Circus!

It has been a very long time since the last time we went to a Ringling Brothers Circus; boy has the spectacle changed. The shear size of it and the number of performers was the most noticeable difference; it was a great time. Some interesting facts about Ringing Brothers Circus (data referenced from Wikipedia):

  1. In 1875, Dan Castello and William Cameron Coup persuaded Barnum to lend his name and financial backing to the circus they had already created in Delavan, Winsconsin. It was called “P.T. Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome”. The moniker “Greatest Show on Earth” was added later.
  2. Independently of Castello and Coup, James Anthony Bailey had teamed up with James E. Cooper to create the Cooper and Bailey Circus in the 1860s.
  3. They eventually agreed to combine their shows in 1881. In 1882, the combined “Barnum & Bailey Circus” was successful with acts such as Jumbo, advertised as the world’s largest elephant. Barnum died in 1891 and Bailey then purchased the circus from his widow.
  4. In 1884, five of the seven Ringling brothers had started a small circus about the same time that Barnum & Bailey were at the peak of their popularity. Their circus rapidly grew and they were soon able to move their circus by train, which allowed them to have the largest traveling amusement enterprise of that time. Faced with the new competition, Bailey took his show west of the Rocky Mountains for the first time in 1905. He died the next year and the circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers.
  5.  The Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 and ran the circuses separately until 1919. Charles Edward Ringling and John Nicholas Ringling, the only remaining two Ringling brothers, decided that it was too difficult to run the two circuses independently, and on March 29, 1919, “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows” debuted in New York City.
  6. In 1957,  John Ringling North and Arthur Concello moved the circus from a tent show to an indoor operation.
  7. In 1967 the Feld family bought the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus for 8 million dollars. They continue to own and run it today.

The way it was before the circus moved into indoor venues. While I do not remember such huge tent conglomeration, I do remember two or three large tents. The feel of the circus inside the big top was something very special.


Before the show started, several acts were displayed on the main ring and attendees could go down and tour them and even participate in some activities they had in place for their amusement. The show we attended was held at the Greenville Bon Secours Wellness Arena; it seats about 15,900 people, but under the circus configuration it would be more like 11,000 people. Nice, but not the same as the big top which had a view all the way to the top. This indoor venues have lower ceilings and you feel boxed in these type of events. They work well for concerts and sports, but just Ok for a circus acts.


Once they had cleared the stage and were getting ready to start the show, what better way to keep all entertained than a few clowns doing their clown things.


The show started with a review of the whole cast; and a big one it was. This is only a portion of it. Music and pageantry was really elaborate; do not remember this big of a production in past shows I attended.


The show lasted almost two hours, will only show a few of the acts. This one has been a popular one for many years, and they seem to cram more bikes into it than I remember. In this instance they had 7 bikes (one ridden by a woman) at high speed inside this sphere; crazy.


One of my favorite acts has always been the lions and tigers. I have seen some close calls before and often wondered how many of those were part of the show. In this picture, the lioness close to the tamer decided she had enough and did not wanted to be pushed around any longer. So, she gave the tamer a very loud growl and looked like she wanted to pounce on him…do not worry, all went to “plan”, tamer calmed things down and the show went on. Now, I do know that sometimes accidents have happened – so you never know. I guess that adds to the tension of this act. Regardless, I give the tamer huge credit for getting inside with this wild creatures; you never know when they will decide to revert to their normal instincts.


All was well I told you; see? Not the same animal, but a make up kiss never the less.


As we were entering the venue we saw several protesters displaying signs against cruelty to animals. Not sure what the real story is, but the animals in all the acts seem very well taken care of. Click on this picture for more information as to how Ringling & Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus takes care of their animals.


These wonderful and gentle creatures seemed happy and very tidy. I must say, never saw so many animals and not one single dropping – hummmm. maybe they do not feed them before the acts? I am sure that will not apply to the lions and tigers.


Like I said, the variety of animals and the lack of dropping was noticeable…at least to me.


This poodle was a real star!


A high wire act that gave all a few thrills as they sped up and down the cable, and even rotated on its axis as the ladies performed their acts on their bars.


Another favorite of all, including myself, was the aerialists in action. Yes, they had the safety net at all times and I was glad they did. I do remember the days when many did not use the safety net; that was way to nerve raking for me and totally unnecessary in my opinion.


This family performed many scary and tension filled acrobatics culminating with the quadruple somersault – it was competed on the second attempt.

We had a very nice time as we took a step back and remember how much we liked the circus when kids. In many ways, we just never grow up.