Leaving the life: The final days of the Ringling Bros. circus

An elephant stretches its trunk through a window to soothe a sick child. A woman gives birth and three months later is back performing on the high wire. A handler of big cats weeps as the beasts lope out of the ring for the last time.

These stories could come only from circus performers, and in particular one famous circus, the one immortalized as “The Greatest Show on Earth”: the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is hanging its hat for the last time this weekend.

One of Ringling’s two traveling circuses is scheduled to perform its final show Sunday in New York. The other closed this month in Providence, and with it, the end to a way of life few others have experienced. (AP)

Related: The final days of the Ringling Bros. circus

See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.

Performers hugging

Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson, right, hugs a member of the crew after the red unit’s final performance, Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performer and son stepping off train

Boss clown Sandor Eke helps his 2-year-old son. Michael Eke step off the Ringling Bros. circus red unit’s traveling train parked in a rail yard as they head to the arena for a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Someday, he plans to teach his son juggling and other circus skills, but Eke knows he may never join the circus. Eke’s wife, a former circus aerialist, has already established their new home in Las Vegas. When the circus closes, Eke hopes to get a job as a “flair” bartender there, doing tricks like juggling bottles, but he wonders how life will change. “My normal life is this. My normal life is going on the train, going every week to a different city. It’s crazy how much I love circus,” Eke says. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performers having breakfast

Beth Walters, left, and Stephen Craig, both clowns with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus talk during the clowns’ final group breakfast, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown writing in journal

Ringling Bros. clown Beth Walters writes in a journal in her living quarters on the circus’ train before heading off to the arena to perform in a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Walters had taken down most of the photos and decorations in her room to prepare to move out and head home after the red unit’s final performance. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Circus train on bridge

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus red unit train passes over a bridge Monday, May 1, 2017, in Enfield, Conn. as it makes its way to Providence, R.I. The train, which is about a mile long, carries the crew, performers and equipment to a different city each week. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performer carrying son on shoulders

Ringling Bros. boss clown Sandor Eke carries his 2-year-old son, Michael, on his shoulders as he walks to the bus that will take them to the arena for a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Someday, he plans to teach his son juggling and other circus skills, but Eke knows he may never join the circus. Eke’s wife, a former circus aerialist, has already established their new home in Las Vegas. When the circus closes, Eke hopes to get a job as a “flair” bartender there, doing tricks like juggling bottles, but he wonders how life will change. “My normal life is this. My normal life is going on the train, going every week to a different city. It’s crazy how much I love circus,” Eke says. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown powdering face

Ringling Bros. boss clown Sandor Eke dusts his face with powder before performing in a show, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. One of Eke’s earliest memories is of an elephant comforting him, stretching its trunk through his trailer window, while he lay recovering from an illness. Eke’s Hungarian parents were performing at the time at a circus in Sweden, and Eke was just a toddler. A few years later, he’d be a circus performer himself, and aspiring to come to America to join Ringling. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown and son with camel

Ringling Bros. boss clown Sandor Eke, center, holds his 2-year-old son Michael up to pet a camel before performing in a show, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “When you’re a circus kid you have your own zoo,” said Eke. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Baptism service

Rev. Jerry Hogan, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry, leads a baptism service for the son of a member of the crew before a Ringling Bros. circus show at the Dunkin Donuts Center, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Hogan’s vestments were made by the costume department from old elephant blankets. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Baptism service

Rev. Jerry Hogan, left, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry, leads a baptism service for 6-year-old Eddie Strickland, the son of Jimmie Strickland, a member of the crew before a Ringling Bros. circus show at the Dunkin Donuts Center, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Hogan’s vestments were made by the costume department from old elephant blankets. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performer standing next to son

Ringling Bros. high wire performer Anna Lebedeva stands next to her 3-month-old son, Amir, in his stroller while waiting to go on for the show’s finale, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Lebedeva and her husband, fellow performer Mustafa Danguir, dream of starting their own show, or maybe opening a circus school in Morocco to teach future generations. They’re optimistic something good will come along. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clowns backstage

Ringling Bros. clowns take a break between acts in “Clown Alley,” a private area backstage, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Clown Alley is not just a place: the private area backstage where clowns get ready to perform. It’s how the clowns refer to themselves, a mini-fraternity within the circus, and a microcosm of it. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clowns talking in hallway

Clowns Gabor Hrisafis, left, and Beth Walters talk in a hallway of the Dunkin Donuts center before a performance, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performers warming up

Members of the Ringling Bros. Circus Mongolian Marvels warm up backstage before performing, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Trainer performing with white tiger

Ringling Bros. tiger trainer Taba Maluenda performs with a white tiger during a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Maluenda has been with some of the cats for 13 years, has raised them from cubs. But they’re owned by Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling, and he has to say goodbye. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Show performance

The red unit of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus opens a show, Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clowns putting on makeup

Ringling Bros. boss clown Sandor Eke, left, and Ivan Vargas put on makeup as Eke’s 2-year-old son Michael watches videos on a phone before a performance, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performer being shot from cannon

Nicole Sanders flies through the air after being shot from a cannon during a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Audience members reacting during show

The audience reacts to performers on the high wire during a performance, Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown takes selfie with chidren

Ringling Bros. clown Ivan Skinfill poses for a selfie photo with children during the intermission of a show, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown taking a break

Beth Walters, takes a break in Clown Alley between acts during a show with the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus red unit, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Tiger trainer reacting after performance

Ringling Bros. tiger trainer Taba Maluenda reacts after finishing his last performance with the red unit, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Maluenda has been with some of the cats for 13 years, has raised them from cubs. But they’re owned by Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling, and he has to say goodbye. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Concessions manager helping customer

Concessions manager Jeannie Hamilton helps a customer at one of the many memorabilia booths after a show, Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Providence, R.I. While people talk about running away with the circus as freeing, Hamilton said she sometimes felt constrained _ either stuck at the arena or stuck on the train. But Hamilton decided to spend that last trip soaking it all in. “Anytime the train was moving, I was on the vestibule,” she said, referring to the small standing area between train cars. “Now that it’s coming to an end, I was trying to enjoy every minute of it.” (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown taking video call on phone

Ringling Bros. clown Ivan Vargas speaks on a video call with his parents during the intermission of a show, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Vargas’ parents work with Ringling’s other circus unit, the blue unit, which will be finishing up in Uniondale, N.Y. on Sunday. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Performer holding clown bible

Ringling Bros. clown Brian Wright holds his clown bible, Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Providence, R.I. Wright started collecting signatures four years ago when he joined the circus. It is now filled with memories, thoughts and jokes from clowns past, along with their pictures. He says he plans to give it to the International Clown Hall of Fame in Baraboo, Wis. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clowns backstage

Clowns with the Ringling Bros. circus red unit wait backstage for the start of the show, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. For the performers who travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its demise means the end of a unique way of life for hundreds of performers and crew members. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Clown hugging son after show

Ringling Bros. boss clown Sandor Eke hugs his 2-year-old son Michael after the red unit’s final show, Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is about to put on its last show on earth. (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP)

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes