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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performs last show under the big top

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — 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. Sunday’s performance was the last of three final shows there.

At the end of the 2 ½ hour performance, 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.