Step right up one last time

Editor’s note: Former Jefferson attorney Jed Magee remains a well-known ex-resident, having helped start the Greene County Community Players during his time here.

Magee, a retired juvenile court judge in Charles City, last week got to experience one of the final shows of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

He filed this report.

The circus’ last-ever show will be live-streamed in its entirety beginning at 6 p.m. May 21 on and Facebook Live.

The “Greatest Show on Earth,” Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, is folding its tents and going out of business — forever.

When I read that in January, I knew I had to be a part of this historic event. Prior to the final show, the circus would be in Providence, R.I., where my daughter, Katy, and her son Massimo, age 12, live. I  immediately made plans for a trip so we could experience it together.

Dunkin’ Donuts Center was filled to capacity on May 4 — about 20,000 people, many of whom we joined early to mix with performers on the arena floor.

There were acrobats, strong men, stunt bicyclists, showgirls, and clowns, clowns, clowns.   Anyone who wanted could grab a red rubber nose, be photographed with any performer and seek autographs. We got some great shots — especially with the clowns and my clownish grandson.

The show was kicked off by the first, and last, female ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson, then followed by mostly two-ring performances (not the traditional three rings). Sadly, the show was sans elephants. Animal activists successfully banned them several years ago.   

However,  female acrobats/showgirls performed on eight two-humped camels (dromedaries?),  strong men and other acrobats formed human pyramids four or five people in height, high-wire acts worked 40-plus feet in the air, including two men carrying a woman sitting on a chair balanced on a bar between their shoulders,  and in the dark, skydivers in fluorescent suits flew from the top of the arena on bungee cords and leapt from trapeze to trapeze.

At least two acts caused adrenaline rush.

Benny Ibarra walked and ran on a giant hamster wheel spinning on a pendulum — first inside the wheel then on the outside some 60 feet in the air. He ended by skipping rope on the outside at the apogee of the spinning/swinging apparatus to collective gasps from the crowd.

Also spine-tingling were the 12 tigers put through their paces by Taba Maluenda.

One always wonders whether those animals are serious when they roar and swing their giant paws at their handler.

Maluenda ended the act dancing with a white tiger on its hind legs across the ring. Whew.

A short and fast trip to see an American institution closing up shop after 141 years.

While reduced in scope — I missed the elephants and small car jammed with a dozen clowns — it was great to see the near-last steps of  “The Greatest Show.”

An added bonus: spending time with family and enjoying fantastic seafood.

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