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The Latest: Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - The Latest on the closing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has shut down the big top.

After 146 years of existence, the circus gave its final performance Sunday evening in Uniondale, New York, outside of New York City.

At the end of the 2 ½ hour show, Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson led the performers, crew and audience in an emotional rendition of "Auld Lang Syne."

Many in the audience had tears in their eyes as they sang, and performers on the show floor hugged.

Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it would close the production, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

Animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. And in May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

___

7: 30 p.m.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has begun its final show after 146 years of wowing audiences with the "Greatest Show on Earth."

Sunday night's 7 p.m. performance was the last of three final shows in Uniondale, New York, outside of New York City.

Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January that it would close the production, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

Animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. And in May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

___

4:10 p.m.

"The World's Greatest Daredevil" says it's emotional to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus' final shows.

The 49-year-old Bello Nock, with his signature shock of two-foot-tall blond hair, performed with Ringling from 2000 to 2008. He spoke Sunday just before the second-to-last ever circus show.

His parents met at the Ringling circus in 1954. While he did not perform during Ringling's final shows, he said that many former and retired performers are in attendance to pay respect to the iconic show.

He said every circus has used Ringling Brothers as its compass and inspiration.

Nock is a daredevil clown who holds 16 Guinness records, including a high wire walk across the entire length of a cruise ship at sea. He has also balanced on high wire in Times Square.

___

2:55 p.m.

The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus says Sunday's final shows are "a celebration."

Feld Entertainment's Kenneth Feld said Sunday that while he is melancholy about closing the production, he feels the performers are energized to "go out on top."

He said the most difficult moment came when he and his family had to tell the performers in January.

Feld said they all have to "embrace change" and there is a love for the circus "that will never die."

Feld's father and uncle bought the circus in 1967. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows. The Felds bought the circus back in 1982.

The final three shows are Sunday in Uniondale, New York, outside of New York City.

___

11:45 a.m.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow.

The circus' last show of three scheduled Sunday at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, is sold out. Fans

Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the production, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

Animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. And in May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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