NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds of fans packed into Norfolk Scope on Thursday night for the final opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The circus will have their final curtain call in May.
“I think if you are going to eliminate the circus, you ought to in American culture eliminate apple pie,” said Dr. Alan Campbell, a longtime fan.
The move to shut down comes after 145 years on the road. The company says rising operating costs and declining ticket sales contributed to their decision.
Last May, the circus retired their elephants from the show, which the company says contributed to even more drastic drop in business.
The decision to close is upsetting for longtime performers like Benny Ebarra.
“I feel it’s had a very big impact on my life,” said Ebarra. “It’s sad. Not just for me, for everybody.”
About 100 protesters with PETA held up signs outside the Norfolk Scope in support of animals in all circuses being retired.
“There’s tigers underneath the scope right now that are chained up and in cages,” said Dan Carron, an outreach coordinator for PETA. “We want Ringling to do the right thing, which is to retire these animals to reputable sanctuaries.”
Fans of the circus, however, say it’s the end of an irreplaceable era.
“I think political correctness has won the day at the expense of general families having a lovely wonderful time with clean entertainment,” said Campbell.