It was announced last week that the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus would soon go out of business.
Falling ticket sales--certainly generated by changing societal mores--doomed the circus, and later this year, it will give its final show, ironically at the new Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
Why has it come to this? Why has this venue demonstrating old-style Americana fallen on such hard times?
I guess it was inevitable in these days of short attention spans and so many other big events to watch and attend that the circus was thought of as truly old school, not really primed for the 21st century.
But it took generations for that conclusion to come, and yes, it has to do with changing societal mores really more than anything else.
And the demise was slow and gradual.
First came the sideshows, which became verboten since about the 1960s.
Sideshows were once a big draw for the circus, and when the circus came to town, seemingly everyone wanted to see the newest attraction, whether it was the height challenged Tom Thumb or the bearded lady.
But about 50 years ago, people kind of wised up that watching Siamese twins or the guy who could eat glass really was not much more than gawking, and not entertainment.
So that faded away, but it took more than 50 more years for the scrutiny the circus has come under in recent times to finally halt it.
Since the 1970s, animal rights groups have claimed that the circus treats its true star attractions--its animal menagerie, including lions, tigers, elephants and the like--very poorly.
Honestly, you would get arguments on both sides about this, with the animal rights people stating that the circus was barbaric to their animals, while the circus people would counter by saying that they treated them better than they would be treated in zoos and other places where they would be in captivity.
Honestly, I don't know who is right in this case, but without the animal attractions, the circus cannot survive. Once Ringling Brothers pulled their elephants from performing, you just knew that the end was near.
Heck, they tried to turn the public away from that omission by hiring their first female ringmaster, but even that couldn't turn the public on to the circus again. It was a good last ditch effort, but it failed to muster the enthusiasm that was its intention.
Ringling Brothers will soon go out of business, but the circus will, in one form or another, live on.
The circus, even in the big cities, has small-town atmosphere written all over it, and smaller traveling circuses will continue to entertain millions of people each year.
But the days of the big-time circus entertaining people in big-time venues appears to be over, and thus, a part of Americana will have bitten the dust.
Personally, I have not been to the circus in quite a while. I can't remember if I took my daughter or son to the circus when they were toddlers, but I know that I did go with them at least once.
Today, the modern circus is not a three-ring one, but a one-ring one, in the form of the WWE. I have often said in this column that the WWE is today's circus, and certainly, Vince McMahon has the same spirit that P.T. Barnum had, with his traveling show hitting all the stops and entertaining millions of people each year.
There are also other variations of the circus, like Cirque De Soleil, which keeps that spirit alive to a degree, but well, it's not the circus that I remember going to as a kid.
But for this 21st century generation, these variations of the original theme will have to do.