UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — With laughter, hugs and tears — and the requisite death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show.
“We are, forevermore, the Greatest Show on Earth,” boomed Johnathan Lee Iverson, who has been the ringmaster since 1999. His son, who also performed, stood by his side. The show was held at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of New York City.
It was an emotional 2 1/2 hours for those who worked on the circus. Many of Ringling’s employees are second, third and even fourth-generation circus performers, while others met their spouses while touring. All spent months on the road, traveling from city to city in Ringling’s train cars and describing themselves as a giant family, albeit one with many clowns.
But it also was the fans who felt like family.
Elaine Bario, a 57-year-old usher at the Nassau County Coliseum, said she’s seen the circus every time it’s been on Long Island — some years as a child with her father, who also was an usher at the same venue.
“The animals, this is where we fell in love with them,” she said. “We got to see animals here and the Bronx Zoo. We don’t go on safaris.”
Bario cried as she watched the final big cat act with its leopards, tigers and Alexander Lacey, the handsome animal trainer.
“I’ve always had a crush on the lion tamers,” she said, laughing through tears.
But it was those animal shows that led to the circus’ eventual demise.
Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline. People, it seemed, didn’t want to see a circus without elephants. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.
A handful of protesters stood outside the venue on Sunday, with signs that said “compassion always wins,” and “the future is animal free.”
Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said that “we all have to embrace change.”
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.
Earlier Sunday, a group of retired and former circus performers sat across the street at a hotel bar, laughing and hugging and sharing memories of tours past.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions, said Rev. George “Jerry” Hogan, Ringling’s circus chaplain. “It’s a reunion, but it’s bittersweet. I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in years.”
Once a mainstay of entertainment in small towns and big cities across the country, Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island . That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend had a narrative storyline. Called “Out of This World,” it was set in futuristic outer space.
In the end, though, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn’t compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations.
But that didn’t stop the circus from giving the performance of their life, one last time, to one last crowd.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Scott Dixon made a big gamble pay off Sunday.
After allowing engineer Chris Simmons to tinker with his car’s qualifying trim and later questioning whether the changes might be too daring, Dixon delivered with the fastest speeds he’s ever seen at Indianapolis.
The New Zealander finished with a four-lap average of 232.164 mph, claiming his third Indianapolis 500 pole with the best qualifying run in 21 years. He easily held off the other front-row starters, Ed Carpenter at 231.664 and defending champion Alexander Rossi at 231.487.
Even Dixon couldn’t believe it.
“Seriously, I don’t know where that came from,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. “It’s fast, really fast. I actually thought there was something wrong with my dash to start with, (I thought) ‘232? Wow!’ I knew that big lap, the first one, was going to be tough to beat. So a big thank you to Chris.”
How impressive was Dixon’s run?
Just four attempts earlier, IndyCar rookie Fernando Alonso posted the fastest average since Helio Castroneves’ 2002 pole-winning speed.
Dixon’s first-lap of 232.595 and his final average were the fastest times recorded at Indianapolis since Arie Luyendyk set the qualifying record and single-lap record in 1996. Luyendyk’s average was 236.986 with a best lap of 237.498.
The crowd roared each time the speed went up on the videoboards and when Dixon pulled back into pit lane after his 10-mile ride, everyone knew the nine-car pole shootout was over.
“I was surprised when I saw some of the numbers yesterday and when he did that 232, a little pressure went away to be honest with you,” said Carpenter, who went 232.180 on his fastest lap. “We wanted to be on the front row and we wanted to get everything we had — and I think we did that.”
Dixon still had to weather the runs of Japan’s Takuma Sato and Carpenter.
Neither had enough to keep Dixon from becoming the fifth three-time pole winner in 500 history. Carpenter was looking for his third in five years.
For a few minutes, it looked like two-time Formula One champ Fernando Alonso had a chance to become the first rookie to win Indy’s top starting spot since 1983.
But two attempts later, Rossi knocked Alonso out of the top spot and two attempts after that, Dixon took the lead for good. Now he can focus completely on next weekend’s race.
“We’ve got to be happy with this — it’s the right place to start,” Dixon said. “It’s not the race win, but we’re in the right starting position.”
For the first time in six races, a Team Penske car does not have the pole. And it wasn’t even close.
After Castroneves acknowledged Saturday that the team struggled to find speed all week, the usually powerful Penskes struggled again when speeds went up.
Will Power, who has won three poles this year, had the fastest of the five cars. He’ll start from the outside of Row 3, after going 230.200.
“It was all we had,” Power said after finishing ninth.
Two-time race winner Juan Pablo Montoya qualified 18th, the outside of Row 6 at 229.565. Three-time 500 winner Castroneves will start 19th, the inside of Row 7, after going 229.515. Josef Newgarden qualified 22nd at 228.501 and defending series champ and current points leader Simon Pagenaud will start 23rd after going 228.093.
Carpenter, his teammate JR Hildebrand and Power are the only Chevrolet drivers in the top nine.
Dixon’s teammate Tony Kanaan will start seventh, the inside of Row 3.
Andretti Autosport has four cars in the first three rows — Rossi and Alonso, Sato at No. 4 and Marco Andretti at No. 8.
NO EASY FEAT
The fifth Andretti driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, had the fourth best run of the day at 231.442. But he’ll start from the No. 10 spot, the inside of Row 4 after failing to qualify for the fast nine. But it sure wasn’t easy.
“That was crazy,” the 2014 Indy winner said. “It was white knuckles the whole time. It felt like that all four laps.”
SETTING THE FIELD
Seven former winners and three rookies made the 33-car starting grid.
And for the second straight year, the last car on the grid will start without an official qualifying time.
Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 car, with replacement driver James Davison, will start from the back of the field. Davison, of Australia, replaces French driver Sebastien Bourdais, who had successful surgery to repair his pelvis Saturday night.
The 38-year-old Bourdais suffered multiple fractures in his pelvis and a fractured right hip in a frightening crash during qualifying Saturday. Coyne named Davison the replacement driver before qualifying began Sunday.
More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Coming off two subpar outings, Chad Kuhl went into the video room to find some past success he could recreate.
Kuhl and four relievers combined on a three-hitter, and the Pittsburgh Pirates scratched out the only run of a rainy game Sunday when David Freese was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Kuhl used his sinking, two-seam fastball to rack up quick outs. He allowed his only hit in the fifth inning.
“I looked back, watched a ton of video and tried to get back to when I was good,” the second-year pitcher said. “It feels great to have it show up in the game — all the work paying off. It just feels like I’m on the right track.”
Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola (2-1) got back on track, as well. Nola returned from the disabled list and threw seven strong innings. The right-hander, who had been sidelined with a back injury, gave up four hits and faltered just briefly in the sixth.
Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison started the inning with consecutive singles, putting runners at the corners. Harrison stole second and, after Andrew McCutchen grounded out, Josh Bell was intentionally walked to load the bases. Nola hit Freese with a pitch, forcing in a run, before John Jaso grounded into an inning-ending double play.
“I’m not really good about getting out of the way, anyway,” Freese said. “But I saw it coming and I was trying to wear it, for sure. Just get that RBI.”
Philadelphia lost for the ninth time in 11 games. But the 23-year-old Nola struck out five and had thrown 89 pitches when he was removed for a pinch hitter in the eighth.
“What a breath of fresh air that was,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He looked like his old self today. That’s the thing that I take out of this game that I’m really happy about. The only run scored was on a hit batsman. He looked like his old self and I’m really happy about that. That’s about all I’m happy about today.”
Wade LeBlanc (3-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings to win in relief. Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero got the ball to Tony Watson, who earned his 10th save in 11 opportunities.
Pittsburgh’s bullpen has been pitching well of late, and that’s what gave manager Clint Hurdle the confidence to pull Kuhl for a pinch hitter in the fifth.
“Watch the way I lean on them. It shows you my confidence level,” Hurdle said. “We’ve got guys out there we feel very confident in giving the ball to and can get things done.”
The game started on time and was never delayed but was played during a steady rain that became heavy at times.
Frazier finished 2 for 3 with a walk to increase his batting average to .369. He would rank second in the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Frazier missed 18 games with a hamstring injury in late April and early May.
Lefties were batting .391 against Kuhl coming into the game, but he held the six Philadelphia left-handed batters hitless with a walk and three strikeouts.
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco hit off a tee and played catch Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring May 17. If all goes well, he is expected to take batting practice for the first time on Monday.
Phillies: OF Daniel Nava missed his second game with a strained left hamstring. He is day to day.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (2-4, 2.84 ERA) starts the opener of a four-game series in Atlanta on Monday night. Cole has compiled eight consecutive quality starts and pitched seven innings with two earned runs or fewer in each of his last three outings. He went six innings and allowed three runs against the Braves on April 9, but did not factor in the decision.
Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-4, 4.53) hopes to build off the momentum of his last start when Philadelphia hosts Colorado on Monday night. In his most recent outing, Eickhoff permitted two earned runs over six innings. He hadn’t had a six-inning start in a full month, and his ERA rose more than two runs during that span.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — American country singer Toby Keith held a concert in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on the sidelines of President Donald Trump’s first overseas visit.
The concert was free and open to men only. Saudis in attendance have posted videos online of the concert showing Keith playing guitar in a duet with an Arabian lute player.
Trump caught a glimpse of the concert with First Lady Melania Trump when, in a golf cart, they rolled past a screen broadcasting it live Saturday evening before having dinner with Saudi King Salman.
The country music star made no reference to the Saudi concert on his regularly-updated Twitter account.
Saudi Arabia adheres to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law. Alcohol is banned and unrelated men and women are segregated in public.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Authorities say gunfire that broke out on a north Philadelphia block where people were listening to music sent nine people to the hospital, two in critical condition.
Police said at least 27 shots were fired shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday near what’s called the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.
Several people who were injured told investigators they were listening to music when two unknown males opened fire into the crowd from across the street.
Media outlets reported that as many as 30 people were on the sidewalk dancing at the time and the shooting was captured live on Facebook.
Police said Sunday morning they didn’t know of any Facebook video.
They said two people were listed in critical condition and the other seven were listed as stable.
NEW YORK (AP) — A milestone night for the New York Mets nearly turned into a miserable one.
Jose Reyes had three instrumental hits, including the 2,000th of his career, and manager Terry Collins made just the right moves as the Mets held off the Los Angeles Angels 7-5 on Saturday.
New York gave up three runs in a nervous ninth inning before substitute closer Addison Reed struck out pinch-hitter Danny Espinosa on a full-count fastball with the bases loaded for his sixth save.
“Definitely, to get that win was the last piece,” leadoff man Michael Conforto said. “To be able to celebrate that the right way was great.”
Collins massaged an unreliable bullpen through four innings after starter Zack Wheeler (3-2) unraveled in the sixth with a 4-0 lead.
The oldest skipper in the majors, seven days shy of his 68th birthday, also became the longest-tenured manager in team history, passing Davey Johnson (1984-90) by reaching 1,013 games with the Mets.
“It’s unbelievable to think that I’ve been here that long,” said Collins , who is 499-514 in seven seasons with the Mets. “It’s a humbling experience and it’s been a tremendous honor.”
Conforto scored three times, all after Reyes reached base right behind him. Neil Walker had two RBIs, and Reyes added a two-run single in a three-run eighth that featured a two-out RBI double by pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores .
Those insurance runs became crucial when reliever Neil Ramirez failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in his Mets debut. A leadoff walk and two soft singles brought on Reed, who walked Cameron Maybin to force in a run.
Kole Calhoun hit an RBI single and Mike Trout’s sacrifice fly trimmed it to 7-5 before Reed escaped . He got cleanup hitter Luis Valbuena, in an 0-for-21 slump, to foul out and then issued another walk before Espinosa whiffed.
“I had faith in Reeder to shut it down,” Conforto said. “It was definitely interesting.”
After the final pitch, Reed exhaled a sigh of relief and cocked his cap high on his forehead with sort of a sheepish smile on his face.
Angels rookie Alex Meyer (2-2) allowed four runs — three earned — and three hits in four-plus innings. The 6-foot-9 righty also singled on an 0-2 slider from Wheeler in his first plate appearance since high school.
“That’s just a poor ballgame on the defensive end. We let too many things get away from us,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve got to tighten that up. That’s the major reason we lost.”
SAVOR THE MOMENT
Reyes singled in the first to become the eighth active major leaguer with 2,000 hits . His achievement was noted on the large videoboard and Reyes doffed his helmet at first base as fans and teammates gave him a standing ovation. The souvenir ball was tossed into New York’s dugout, and Reyes said he probably will give it to his father. “I feel very grateful to be part of that club,” he said.
The only other active bench bosses who have managed the most games in the history of their franchises are Kansas City skipper Ned Yost (1,141 games) and Scioscia (2,799), the full-time replacement for Collins with the Angels following the 1999 season.
BUILDING A BRIDGE
Before the game, Collins acknowledged he “wore out” struggling reliever Fernando Salas early this season. Salas replaced Wheeler with the bases loaded and nobody out in a 4-1 game and retired all three hitters he faced, allowing only one more run to score in the sixth. Collins then went to rookie Robert Gsellman, skipped in the rotation this time through. Gsellman threw two scoreless innings .
Angels: Albert Pujols missed his second consecutive game because of tendinitis in his right hamstring. He planned to take pregame batting practice on the field, Scioscia said, but wasn’t available to pinch hit. “He’s feeling much better, but not quite enough to get out there,” Scioscia explained.
Mets: C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist) had his rehab assignment moved to Triple-A Las Vegas and flied out as a pinch hitter at New Orleans. He is still expected to catch another nine innings in a minor league game before rejoining the Mets, but it sounds as though he could be back for the upcoming series against San Diego, which begins Tuesday. … Collins said LHP Steven Matz (left elbow) and RHP Seth Lugo (right elbow) probably need at least two more rehab outings each — against some better competition — before returning to the Mets. Both pitchers made their first rehab appearances Thursday with Class A St. Lucie. … Collins said LF Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hamstring) has reached the “back half” of his extended running program, but no definitive target date has been determined for his return.
LHP Tommy Milone (1-1, 6.25 ERA) makes his third start for the Mets in the series finale Sunday against RHP Jesse Chavez (3-5, 4.22). Milone is 6-2 with a 4.68 ERA in 12 career starts vs. the Angels.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball