After 146 years Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey took its last bow this May. Feld Entertainment, the owners of the circus and other popular family entertainment shows, like Monster Jam and Disney on Ice, made the historic decision to close the show when ticket sales declined, a direct result of moving their pachyderm performers to the Center for Elephant Conservation.
The decision to retire the elephants—the beginning of the end—wasn’t easy for the Felds. In many ways, the animals were the core of a show that has been an American family tradition for as long as the institution of baseball. The childhood of the Feld sisters, Nicole, Alana and Juliette, was built on that show.
The closure announcement was met with mixed reviews—a sense of victory from some animal rights groups, loss from families that enjoy the circus, and an amalgam of nostalgia, heartbreak and hopefulness from the three Feld sisters. Along with their father Kenneth, they ran the day-to-day operations of the third-generation family business, and were the ones tasked with making this challenging choice.