My trip to Ringling Brothers Circus in Norfolk VA

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been around for 146 years. It is known as “the greatest show on earth.” However, the final curtain call will come on May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, New York. The circus toured in Greensboro, NC on Feb 8-12, and Out of this World toured Charlotte, NC on Feb 1-5 and Raleigh on Feb 9-12. The Ringling Bros. circus has been a part of American families for generations. Recently, due to dropping sales and an ongoing war with animal rights activist, the circus has decided to close down. I had the chance to go to one of the last shows in Norfolk, VA on March 25.

The Ringling Brothers circus is quite magnificent. First off, the circus has two shows: Circus Xtreme and Out of this World. Each show has a mile long train. All performers live on the train and travel across the U.S to perform. Face painting was available, and I figured why not get my faced painted. It would be the only time to get my face painted and would quality for some great pictures and memories that I could hold onto forever. I decided on a tiger and got my face painted as soon as we arrived. I knew that the train was a mile long, so I decided to ask the lady who was painting my face about it.  She told me she had a three-year-old son. Her son has traveled around the U.S twice! He has seen more of the U.S than 99.68% of Americans. It is estimated that only 0.32% of Americans have traveled to all fifty states. The train provides housing for the animals, and the performers eat on the train. There is a full kitchen car that makes all three meals a day for all the performers. In addition, the performers’ families live on the train. Many of the children do school on the train and grow up to become performers themselves. The train has everything a regular house would have: showers, toilets, beds, computers, fridge and onboard 24/7 Wi-Fi. The train is the only form of transportation for the performers besides a bus that takes them and the animals to and from the arena they are performing at. The train takes everything place to place, including the performers and animals. It takes about twelve hours to set everything up. Another interesting fact is the train does not have its own engines; it rents them. However, the train does have a crew of about ten maintenance workers. They do all maintenance to the train cars, inside and out. You can find a video of them on YouTube of the crew fitting and fixing the wheels on the train. They have to ensure that the electricity and all the other appliances work, even when they’re in the train yard.

The show itself was about two hours with a fifteen- minute intermission. Scope Arena is a dome-looking arena, and a different variety of food was offered. One cool food was the cotton candy. If you bought cotton candy, it came with a free camel head. Other souvenirs included snow cone cups, twirlers, and light up swords. The circus also had stores set up throughout the arena. I bought a Circus Xtreme final tour shirt. However, the stores also included stuffed elephants to support the elephant sanctuary, a wide variety of other stuffed animals, and a few other goodies such as cups, shot glasses, and posters. However, the store wasn’t everything; the show was!

The show included a wide variety of acts. The ringmaster Michelle Kristen Wilson traveled around on a boat with the two other main characters, Irina and Alex. Irina and Alex were with Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson as they traveled around the world discovering new and different animals, tricks, and acts. The acts are magnificent and left me stunned. My favorite act was either Clown Alley or Benny Ibarra. The clowns are very kid-friendly and are not scary. They are quite funny and can do some neat tricks and even gave me a good laugh. Benny Ibarra is a very talented performer. Benny is inside a metal ball that spins around. At one point, he got out and was on top of the metal ball! This was a very cool act as it takes someone very special and fit to do this performance. Other acts included camels, the tigers, poodles, BMX, trampoline gymnast, parkour and slackline, Danguir Troupe, Aerialists, and Mongolian Marvels. The camels did a wide variety of acts. They ran around in formation and were quite awesome to see. I had never seen a real camel, but they are large and quite tame creatures. The tigers and their master Tabayara Maluenda were quite a show themselves. Tigers are large and beautiful animals. They performed a variety of tricks and added a great touch to the show. I have only seen a tiger one other time at Disney World. It was pretty cool to see these large animals up close and front. The poodles did a wide variety of really awesome tricks. There were two small poodles and about six large ones. The small poodles jumped over the large ones, and the large ones danced with Irina and Alex. The tricks they did were sweet, and I know that my dogs couldn’t do those tricks!  BMX was a pretty sweet act. The BMX riders have a wide variety of tricks and stunts they performed. One of the riders did a 360 and landed it perfectly. The riders did a preshow and did some pretty awesome tricks as well. The trampoline gymnast would be an amazing job. The gymnasts jump from a structure and bounce up and down. They did flips, backflips and performed a great amount of great tricks. Parkour and slackline did a wide variety of tricks on a mat and jumped on a slackline as well as jumping on top of it. It takes a lot of skill to do parkour and slackline as it can result in injury easily. Danguir Troupe was the group of high wire. The tricks they performed left me stunned. They had one act where a performer sat in a chair as they crossed across the high wire. This trick was pretty awesome and takes a lot of skill to perform. The Aerialists were essentially skydivers. They did multiple tricks and did multiple skydiving formations. They had suits, colored pink, green, purple and they glowed. The Mongolian Marvels did some cool heavy weight tricks. They threw heavy weights around and, one of them held 300+ pounds worth of weight with just his mouth! It was cool to see the weights being thrown around since it left me on the edge of my seating hoping they’d always catch them. All of the acts take very special people to perform them, and they were all very awesome! The closing will end these magnificent events, but some are calling this a victory; is it?

One part of the circus I didn’t like was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protesting the show. When the circus was announced that it closing back in January, PETA and other animal’s rights organizations claimed the closing was a “victory” for animals. However, 500+ people are losing their jobs, and they and their family will have no place to live as the train is their home. How is that a victory? The ongoing battle of animal rights organizations has been going on for years. The closing of the circus is in no way a victory for animals or anybody. If the animals were abused, people would see it when they went to see the show. Feld Entertainment, owner of Ringling Brothers, has always set a golden standard for how to treat and take care of Animals. The main argument is that animals do not naturally do tricks. However, abuse is not the only way for animals to learn tricks. Dogs are great example of this. You can teach your dogs tricks by using food. This is common for the majority of animals. Luckily, the people protesting were not loud and did not try to yell at or antagonize people coming to watch the show.

The show was quite an experience and, it was bittersweet. The show is closing down with its last performance on May 21, in Uniondale, NY. If you have the chance to go to one of the last shows, I recommend doing so. It is worth the money, and it is an experience that will be priceless. It is an end to a great American tradition and will forever be in my heart and many more.

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