Rush to Carson and Barnes Circus this season. Run, fly, hitchhike, roller skate, carpool, crawl, even go Greyhound -- but go whenever America's last 3-ring big top comes your way. For after it falls for the final time at the end of its 2008 campaign, you won't see three rings under canvas anymore
Next year, "it could be two," states remarkably forthcoming C&B staffer, Nancy Gaona. But it won't be three.
I spoke with Nancy this morning by telephone about business in general. “So-so” is how she characterized the crowds this year, stating that every year, business “gets worse.” And she believes such is the case on virtually all U.S. shows.
“We all know it’s going to happen,” said she.
Why, I asked?
Nancy pointed to the dismal economy. But what about those stay at home Americans who this year are “staycationing,” I asked. "They don't have enough money to take their kids to the circus," Nancy figures, stating that business is down in every other venue of show business, the movies included. (I did a brief net search, and it seems movie houses have suffered, as have Vegas hotels, bookings at the latter down by 15%.) She believes the public still likes a traditional show under the big top. They simply can’t afford to go.
And for the larger shows, hauling multiple rings around has gotten too prohibitively expensive. (Such was the case made recently by C&B marketing rep Doug Munsell to a newspaper reporter in the Washington state area.)
Carson & Barnes, to be sure, enjoyed the occasional full house during a spotty tour of Florida in the spring. Disputing what an insider, professionally connected to circuses, told me earlier this year (likening the Florida tour to "a train wreck"), Nancy said that business was “better than expected,” and that a few winning dates made up for the losers.
“It’s sad” she answered when I asked her how she feels about all this. Nancy, by the way, is a niece to famed trapeze flyer Tito Gaona.
She pointed to the country’s largest circus as an example of the drastically changing times ahead and of what we might expect for some time to come. “If Ringling can change, why can't we?”
Nancy believes that circuses will still be around, but in different forms.
Carson and Barnes, she vigorously asserted, is not going off the road.
Want to witness a coast-to-coast curtain fall on what once was known as the great American circus -- a form born 136 years ago when a circus named Barnum added a second ring to the sawdust? Now is the time. This is the moment. It may never return.
Cry, clown, cry..
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