UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Lions, tigers and clowns, no more. Oh my. It's curtains for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
This weekend is the final chance for fans to see death-defying acrobats, exotic animals and flashy costumes as the circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world's biggest big tops.
Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show.
"I'm becoming an adult today," said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. "I can't go to the circus with my daddy anymore."
Greenberg and her parents, and her three children, along with her sister and extended family — 12 in all — clowned around, laughing and joking, as they walked into the show.
Her sister, Dawn Mirowitz, 42, of Dix Hills, New York, sobered as she pondered a future without the Ringling Brothers circus.
"We'll never get a chance to take our grandchildren to the circus," she said.
Feld executives say declining attendance combined with high operating costs are among reasons for closing.
Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one ending its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island.
The final shows of what was long promoted as "The Greatest Show on Earth" are being staged at the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York. There are three scheduled shows Saturday and three on Sunday. For those who can't make it, the final circus show on Sunday night will be streamed live on Facebook Live and on the circus' website.
Clarissa Williams, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom from West Hempstead, New York, was taking her 8-year-old daughter, Nylah, to the show.
"I'm thankful we get to see it before it leaves," she said. "I pray that when they end, they take the animals and put them in a safe, sacred place."
A spokesman for the circus says homes have been found for the animals that were owned by Ringling, including the tigers, horses and camels.