In this April 9, 1999 file photo, a pair of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus elephants cross Eighth Avenue in front of the Main Post Office in New York. The circus will phase out the show’s iconic elephants from its performances by 2018, telling The Associated Press exclusively on Thursday, March 5, 2015 that growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision. (AP Photo/Lynsey Addario)
Photo: Contributing Writer
Photo: Contributing Writer

D.L. Stewart: The circus is leaving town … finally

News that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will fold its big top forever this May brought back a flood of happy, smiling memories for me.

Ok, maybe not a flood, exactly. More like a droplet. In fact, my ONLY happy, smiling circus memory is from when I took my daughter to see one when she was six or seven years old. As the circus began and the opening parade circled the floor of the arena, she sat grim-faced and bored until, suddenly, she leaped out of her seat, squealing happily and pointing to a guy passing in front of us. He was walking behind the elephants with a broom in one hand and a large dustpan in the other.

That’s it. End of happy, smiling memories.

Even before then, though, I never cared much for what went on under the big top. (Although, of course, they stopped doing their things under the big top years ago and moved to arenas, many of which were dingy old places, redolent with the odors of popcorn, cotton candy and elephant poop.)

To start with, the three-ring thing was frustrating, sort of like being in a sports bar with a dozen televisions showing a dozen different games. While you’re watching the television in front of you showing a replay of an incomplete pass, you’re missing the television on your right showing a running back racing 99 yards for a touchdown. Backwards.

And I found the clowns to be more annoying than funny. Seeing a dozen guys with red noses tumbling out of a tiny little car ceases to be amusing after you’ve seen it a few times, although it did seem pretty funny back in my college days when five of my buddies and I tried to stuff ourselves into a Volkswagen Beetle. But maybe that had something do with the three six-packs of Stroh’s.

In this Feb. 28, 1945 photo, Elizabeth Wallenda pauses on an aerial ladder during rehearsal for her return to the Wallenda troupe’s high wire act with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, now in winter quarters in Sarasota, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end “The Greatest Show on Earth” in May 2017, following a 146-year run of performances. (AP Photo/Earl Shugars)
Photo: Contributing Writer

There are numerous reasons why the circus is ending. Perhaps the biggest is that today’s children of all ages would rather watch cartoon figures on their hand-held devices blowing each other up than sit through wholesome, family entertainment involving wild animals forced to perform acts nature never intended for them to do.

So my guess is that just about the only people lamenting the passing of the circus are the same people who have fond memories of television shows such as “Mr. Ed” and “My Mother the Car” being hysterically funny.

For them, the last chance to see the greatest show in our area of the Earth will be in March, when it comes to Cincinnati’s US Bank Arena. Great seats can be had for $515.

If that seems a bit pricy just to see clowns and circuses and stuff, there’s always free coverage of Washington, D.C. on C-SPAN.

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