A North End tradition, the annual Elephant Brunch, has come to an end with the announced closing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Typically held in mid-October, the circus elephants would parade down Causeway Street onto Commercial Street before reaching their brunch destination near the Hanover Street Fire House. There, to the delight of onlooking children and their families, the elephants would enjoy a brunch of fruit, vegetables and bread before their opening night performance at TD Garden.
Feld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, announced in 2015 they would, over the next three years, remove all elephants from their circus show and allow them to retire to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation. The thirteen elephants traveling with the circus at the time of this announcement would continue to tour with the company until 2018, when they would join the rest of the Ringling Bros. herd of over forty elephants in Florida. This decision came after many years of scrutiny from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and several other animal rights groups.
The Feld family opened their elephant conservation center in 1995 with hopes of helping the endangered Asian elephant through conserving, breeding and expanding public knowledge of these animals. In a statement discussing the elephants’ retirement from the show, Nicole and Alana Feld, Ringling Bros. producers and Executive Vice Presidents with Feld Entertainment explained, “As the circus evolves, we can maintain our focus on elephant conservation while allowing our business to continue to meet shifting consumer preferences.” At the time, the circus planned to continue featuring other animal performers such as tigers, lions and camels in the show.
Once the decision was made, the conservation staff began preparing for the arrival of the performing elephants and found they could have space and resources available earlier than expected. Because of this, the circus announced the elephants would be retiring two years earlier than planned – their last performance would take place in Providence, Rhode Island on May 1, 2016. Confident the show could remain an exciting performance without the elephants, Alana Feld described the new circus theme, “Out Of This World”, as one that would “modernize live family entertainment [with an] immersive atmosphere created by lighting technology and video production, combined with a thrilling storyline.”
However, only seven months after the departure of the elephants, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have decided to close the curtain forever on the 146-year old circus. The closure is attributed to increasing operating costs and declining ticket sales, which took a greater hit than expected following the elephants’ retirement. The final show will take place on May 21, 2017 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
The Ringling Bros. elephants’ new home isn’t open to the public, but you can watch videos of the facility in this National Geographic article. The space certainly looks a bit more desirable for these 3- to 7-ton endangered animals than the streets of the North End.
Don’t worry, the Hanover Street traffic is still terrible and the North End continues to serve up excellent human brunch every day of the week.