In January Kenneth Feld walked into a room filled with The cast and crew of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey blue unit.and a quick well rehearsed speech he are the words that no one was expecting that the blue unit would be closing on May 21.
Immediately after he spoke Harry Sugarman the head of human resources and the head of Circus operations spoke ensuring everybody would be taken care of during this difficult time. Within a few short days the staff had an understanding of their severance package they were offered a retention bonus.
The performers who for the most part had one-year contracts would have their contract extended three weeks do you ask that had longer contracts have been very tightlipped about their agreement with the Feld family.
On Monday morning immediately hitting the Airways was Mr. Feld and his daughter talking about how they would take care of everyone that was going to be housing and transition assistance. On a Friday and Saturday if you weeks after the announcement an employment agency was on site at the arena to help people write resumes and start searching for jobs. The funny thing about this was who has time to meet with these people on a three show day how does the train crew and the regular working day have an opportunity to stop what they’re doing to go meet with these people it just didn’t happen. However the largest group of people employed by the Feld’s are the Teamsters they were simply call to their sheets and what they thought was going to be a meeting to get their package but all that they were given or white pieces of paper informing them that they would have to be off the train by May 21 and that they would no longer be employed after May 21. I think it was at this point that the reality started to set in. It was not until several months later in Newark New Jersey the Teamsters would find out what they were going to get.
The strange thing to me and the one thing I don’t think that they expected was as heartbroken as both units were at the show is closing there were several opportunities for the shows to come together and the love care and respect that the men and women from every walk of life showed for each other was heartwarming. The circus fans, The train fans and just the outpouring of compassion and love from the communities that we came to was very emotional.
All the time we arrive at Berkeley Center is made very apparent by staff management and union leaders that the majority of the working man and woman were not going to get a decent severance package. And for the most part we were encouraged to take care of ourselves look out for yourselves. Shows like Cirque du Soleil , Circus Vargas and several businesses from Disney to SeaWorld reached out through several different methods. At that point several positions have opened up for me and I personally had to make a decision to leave the show. I leave behind a dedicated cast and crew. Lifelong friendsand true professionals. Truly the greatest cast on earththere are lots of rumors about what the future holds for The greatest show on earth. I say this with a broken heart the final curtain will fall on May 21 and maybe someday as Mr. Feld said this model is broken and maybe a new model will be built but nothing will compare to what was Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus the greatest show on earth!