Last of the Great Arena ShowsFeld Entertainment brought the circus to to big indoor arenas around the country with several traveling versions rotating through major cities.
Many of us can remember the circus from our childhood. My first memories were created at The Forum in Wichita, Kansas when Ringling Bros. would come to town. It wasn't the big tents or the "Big Top" as it was often called, I'd seen in movies. It was an indoor event that eventually grew to large arena size after the circus was acquired by Feld Entertainment in the 1960's.
For several years prior to 2017 when Feld closed the 146 year old circus, I used some business contacts to gain access to pre-shows and the show itself. It was an up close experience that ended when Feld became more cautious after a tragic accident that injured a number of performers at a show in the Northeast. The images in this blog are from a number of different themed performances over several years.
The Ringmaster #1The Ringmaster
The Ringmaster - Master of Ceremonies and the glue that held the performance together.
There were many glorious ways to introduce the crowd to the Ringmaster.
Ringmaster #5The Ringmaster makes a grand entrance
Ringling Brothers Pre-ShowCircus, known for and built upon its' animal acts, was ultimately changed by the protests to the use of the animals
The circus weathered criticism and protesting over the treatment of circus animals including and maybe even primarily among them the elephants.
THE ANIMAL ACTS
Ringling Brothers Barnam & Bailey
THE CLOWNS: If the Ringmaster was the guide to the circus universe, the clowns were another constant, always ubiquitous and crowd pleasing.
Clown #9The veteran clown.
THE VETERAN CLOWN
Clown #8The veteran clown in this Feld Production of RBBB.
The other clowns encouraged me to meet this gentleman. They said he had been with RBBB the longest of any of them.
Clown #2Clowns safely engage the audience and warm up the audience for the show.
Clowns often facilitated other acts. In this case Jemma "The Jet" (Kirby).
Gemma the Jet #1In what might be called the daredevil category, Gemma the Jet, the human canonball. Pre-show she jumped from a high platform into a cushion and during the show, she was shot from the canon.
Gemma the Jet #2The drop into the air cushion.
Gemma the Jet #3Gemma shot from the canon during the show.
Clowns #1From pre-show to closing of the performance, the clowns served as the glue that hold the show together.
Clown #3Juggling is one of the often found skills of the circus clowns.
RBBB Pre-showFeld offered an upclose experience with performers and a special admission add on.
I remember reading how the Felds, who own Ringling Brothers, would travel the world to view potential acts for their productions.
RBBB Pre-showThe up close experience at an arena show.
RBBB Pre-showOne of the acts from around the world.
RBBB Pre-showMultiple acts in the pre-show.
RBBB Pre-showInternational performers.
It was the circus as I remembered it, but with added elements of vaudeville, Las Vegas shows and its' own particular mixture of color that dazzled the eyes.
RBBB Pre-showThe lighting, the colors, the sheer pageantry and amount of the activity of the big arena shows made the productions impressive.
RBBB Pre-showFeld traveled to different countries to find the acts for the big arena circus shows.