The final performances of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus are going on this week in Tampa. It’s a bittersweet ending to the Greatest Show on Earth. It’s been 146 years since the circus has been coming to towns across the United States. It was a much different time when the circus began and the performances have changed a lot with the times. Today’s performances are more about the entertainers than the animals; especially since they announced the retirement of their elephants for this final season. I’m not here to debate whether or not animals should be used in the circus; but rather to look back at the memories that I have from my childhood on the circus.
My parents are from a different generation and for them the circus was a huge deal. They would save up their money each year so that they could take my brother and I to the circus when it came to town. It was a big deal for us to go into the city and watch the three rings filled with clowns and performers. It was a big deal for us to get the cotton candy and the cracker jacks. It was a big deal for us to spend this time together and bond as a family.
I always feel a little nostalgic when the circus comes to town today. I have memories of those days when I was probably close in age to my own children now. I am happy that I have been able to share that experience with my children. For the past few years we’ve packed up the kids and taken them into the city, we’ve gotten them cotton candy, and we’ve bonded as a family. This will be our final year to be able to do that as a family.
My kids have always loved the clowns….that is until this past Halloween when clowns made the news in a negative light that scared us all. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to look at clowns the same way again. I think that’s sad. I’m hoping that this final trip to the circus will help them see that clowns are entertainers and not intended to provoke fear.
The performances today are more centered on the dancers, the motorbike daredevils, the contortionists, and the tightrope walkers. The performances today are centered the people who’s only job is to awe us and bring smiles to our faces. These are the people that I’m sad for as the circus comes to an end. I know that many of them will find jobs within other shows; but there’s just something special about the joy that the circus can bring to a little kid. I always felt like the circus allowed us to dream of what life could be like if we stepped outside of our comfort zone and did something daring!
Going forward, we’ll all find other ways to bond and entertain ourselves. We’ll find other ways to dream and be daring. We’ll all find other ways to escape from our weird reality, if only for one evening, and remember to laugh and smile with our families. This year I’ll hold a little tighter to those memories that I make with my children in hopes that they will have the same fond memories of their childhood when they grow up. I’m fortunate that this year I’ll also be able to take my parents back to the circus for one last show.
Tickets are still available to the Tampa performances of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Extreme and for other shows through the end of May.
What are your favorite memories of the circus as a child? I always dreamed that one day I would be able to fly high on the trapeze!!!
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