Farewell to the "Greatest Show on Earth."
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It was recently announced the legendary Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, "The Greatest Show on Earth," would be closing in May 2017. To fans of the circus, the news was devastating as it had become an institution after 145 years of operation. Like so many families, I took my children to see the circus at a young age. They were fascinated by the trained elephants, tigers, horses, and various other animal acts. The trapeze performers and high-wire acts were also a favorite.
My daughter particularly enjoyed "King Tusk," a massive elephant, and the animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams. My son was more interested in the clowns and their shenanigans. The acts and names of the performers changed over the years, but the excitement of the circus seemed to go on unabated, until recently.
In a letter recently posted to the Ringling web site, Kenneth Feld, the Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the producer of the circus, broke the news to the public. Last year, the circus removed the elephant acts due, in large part, to animal rights activists who thought the animals were being mistreated. With the elephants gone, the circus started to diminish. To make matters worse, the attitudes of youth today are changing in terms of entertainment. They are now more imbued with the Internet and computer games than watching live performances, thus causing the death knell of the circus and other forms of live entertainment.
The average price for a ticket was affordable for families, but couldn't sustain a traveling circus. Ticket prices were much less than Cirque du Soleil which are staged in fixed indoor venues, such as in Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York.
The passing of the circus into memory is another indicator of how technology affects the human spirit. It is sad to think that in the not too distant future, the only way we will be able to experience a circus will be through virtual reality glasses.
Another symptom of technology's influence is in the area of shopping. Year after year, on-line shopping is said to be making great strides against shopping malls, particularly at holiday time. Unlike retailers in a mall, who have the overhead of renting space and paying for utilities and on-site personnel, on-line shopping has none of these concerns and, as such, can offer products more cheaply. The only time mall retailers have the advantage is when it is necessary to "touch and feel" a product, such as when selecting furniture, a major appliance, and automobiles. Even here though, on-line shopping is being strongly embraced by young people trained in the use of the Internet. If they do not like the product, they simply return it for a refund. Here again, we are losing the personal touch, our sense of customer service and basic salesmanship.
There are trade-offs for the extended use of technology; it may be useful to expedite a sales order or transaction, but at what price? The care of the customer? Or how about the decimation of an old institution such as the circus, where children of all ages sat and marveled at the abilities of man and beast? I, for one, will miss it greatly.
By the way, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus will conclude its tour at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, on May 21, 2017. Be sure to see it before it fades away into memory.
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.