A look back in photos: The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ visits Austin

Elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus cross Congress Avenue at Fifth Street on their way to the Erwin Center in June 1996. Photo by Larry Kolvoord

Elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus cross Congress Avenue at Fifth Street on their way to the Erwin Center in June 1996. Photo by Larry Kolvoord

This week, Feld Entertainment announced that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will shut down after more than 130 years on the road.

Feld, which has owned the circus since it bought it from the Ringling family in 1967, cited high operating costs and declining ticket sales in announcing the closure.

Austin was one of the more than 100 cities the famed circus visited annually, most recently performing shows at the Erwin Center at the end of summer.

While many see the end of the circus as a victory for animal rights, it is an end of an era as well — an era that many children and adults will miss. Here’s a look back at some photos highlights from the Ringling Bros. circus’ visits to Austin …

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Joe F. Whitlow waits as the Ringling Bros. circus train arrives in Austin in July 1980.

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By 1986, neither the train nor the scenery had changed much. Horses are unloaded from the train in mid-August. Photo by Ralph Barrera.

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Lonna Paska practices from a trapeze hung from a football goalpost near the where the circus is set up in this Nov. 1979 photo. Her parents work with the elephants in the circus. Photo by Ed Malcik.

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If you’re a parent, at some point you’re going to invest some effort and money into something for your child that doesn’t work out. This is Holly Hendrix at the circus in September 1976 with her sleeping daughter Erica. Photo by Ed Malcik.

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Young Amy Chamrad is much more excited about the circus in July 1980, watching from the front row. Photo by Zach Ryall

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Elephants cross Lamar Boulevard along the railroad tracks just south of 5th Street in June 1997. They left their rail cars at the AmTrak depot for a long walk to the Erwin Center. Photo by David Kennedy

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants make their way east on Red River Street to the Erwin Center in June 2006. Photo by Ralph Barrera.

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Elephant handler, Hicham Basllam watches as an elephant waves a Longhorn flag during the Ele-Punt Kickoff Brunch outside the Erwin Center in August 2009.  In an effort to show support for the upcoming Longhorn football season the Asian elephants feasted on their own type of pre-game brunch then one of the elephants kicked a large football to a waiting Bevo mascot. Photo by Deborah Cannon.

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Members of the Texas Cheer Squad have their photo taken with a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey elephant in August 2009. Photo by Deborah Cannon.

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Human cannonballs Tina Miser and her husband Brian Miser get in the cannon at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Circus at the Erwin Center in August 2010. Photo by Jay Janner.

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Highwire performer Jonathan Lopez performs while carrying Taylor Kimball, 7, of Lakeway, during the pre-show at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Erwin Center in August 2010. Photo by Jay Janner.

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Ringmaster Alex Ramon performs a magic trick for Jenna White, 6, of Leander, during the pre-show at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Erwin Center in August 2010. Photo by Jay Janner.

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Jocelyn Eddie Constant Jr., 2, wears a clown nose at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Erwin Center in August 2015. Photo by Jay Janner.

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Kelly Ann, a 19-year-old Asian elephant, walks away after a news conference at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Erwin Center in August 2015. Photo by Jay Janner.


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