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A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown does a somersault during a performance Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end the "The Greatest Show on Earth" in May, following a 146-year run of performances. Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, told The Associated Press, declining attendance combined with high operating costs are among the reasons for closing. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Watch the entirety of the final Ringling Bros. Circus performance


UPDATE May 22 at 5 p.m. EST: 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will complete its final show Sunday evening after entertaining audiences for 146 years. 

The circus performed its second-to-last show at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, earlier on Sunday. A group of retired circus performers gathered to share memories of prior tours.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions," said Rev. George “Jerry” Hogan, Ringling’s circus chaplain. “It’s a reunion, but it’s bittersweet."

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the circus, announced in January that the "Greatest Show on Earth" would be coming to an end because of declining attendance and high operating costs.

Kenneth Feld told the Associated Press that the final shows would serve as "a celebration." 

“We all have to embrace change,” he said. “But there is a love for the circus that will never die. Our family has given a half century of life to something that would have ended 50 years ago.” 

Feld's father and uncle purchased the circus in 1967 but sold it to Mattel in 1971. The Feld family continued to manage the shows and eventually bought the circus back in 1982. 

History of Ringling Brothers Circus
Find out more

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has faced sharp criticism from animal rights activists over the years. Activists criticized the company for forcing animals to perform. 

In May 2016, elephants were removed from all of the shows, but ticket sales continued to decline. 

And so Sunday night, sometime after 9 p.m., the "Greatest Show on Earth" will come to an end. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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