Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American institution born 146 years ago, begins its last-ever run of performances Firday night at the new Nassau Coliseum.
Ringling announced its closure in January following more than a decade of legal battles with animal rights groups and a decision last May to pull its Asian elephants from shows, which led to an unexpectedly sharp downturn in attendance.
The final edition of the Ringling circus, titled “Out of This World,” lends an interstellar theme to traditional acts such as trapeze artists, ribbon dancers, horse riders and the unicycle-basketball team known as the King Charles Troupe.
Davis Vassallo, a fourth-generation clown from Italy, is one of the show’s star attractions, as is Johnathan Lee Iverson, the circus’ first black ringmaster and now the last man to hold that post.
Ringling will play its historic final show at the Coliseum on May 21.