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The miserable Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in Jacksonville and Sarasota this week (click here for details of ARFF’s protest in Sarasota).

Although this may not be the last year that the circus performs in Florida, there are signs that perhaps Ringling’s show is in decline.

Activists outside the American Airlines Arena in Miami last Sunday were surprised when the evening show was canceled due to low ticket sales. The Saturday morning circus show in Lakeland was also canceled.

We know that many people are turned-off by Ringling’s poor treatment of the elephants and tigers in their show, but the show itself may also be contributing to their problems at the box office. A letter writer in today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune described her disappointment with the Ringling show. She called the show “slow,” the ringmaster “lackluster” and the clown act “interminably long and generated few laughs.”

The success of animal-free circuses like Cirque du Soleil has changed people’s ideas of what a circus performance could (and should) be. Earlier this month, Florida-based Cirque Productions presented “Jungle Fantasy” at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach. The European-style, theatrical circus does not include any animals. Instead, 24 performers wear over 150 different animal costumes during the show. The circus’ founder, Neil Goldberg, described the show in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “There are frogs hopping and juggling. Owls who are doing trapeze. Performers as butterflies who are flying with wings over the audience. Monkeys rolling around inside wheels and spinning shapes. Spiders climbing up straps and ropes, bouncing up and down on bungee cords.” Goldberg promoted the show as “the reinvention of circus.”

In their effort to fill arenas, Ringling Bros. often comes up with stunts to generate television news coverage. Yesterday in Jacksonville, five elephants with the circus “raced” for 300 feet in front of Veterans Memorial Arena. The event was conducted in cooperation with the Jacksonville Track Club, who are promoting their upcoming 15k Gate River Run. Please contact the track club and ask them not to participate in media stunts with the circus in the future. Let them know that it’s a poor idea to associate their race with a circus that has seen 24 elephants die in the past decade.

Doug Alred, Director
E-mail: firstplacesports@mindspring.com
Phone: (904) 731-1900

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