I spent a lot of my early childhood wishing music came from the sky like in the movies, but there was one place in which it did—the Big Apple Circus, which my family attended in its tent behind Lincoln Center every fall until I was eight or nine. I loved the big top, the peanuts, the trapeze artists, the dogs and ponies, and even Grandma, the world's only non-threatening clown—but most of all, I loved the music, which reverberated throughout the tent without an instrument in sight. Until, sadly, one day someone pointed to the orchestra booth hidden near the roof somewhere and the magic spell was broken.
Future generations will not get the chance to be tricked this way, though because the Big Apple Circus, an institution in this town since 1977, has folded. In June, the Times reported that the circus—a non-profit organization, and not a Ringling Bro. moneymaking machine—needed $2 million to survive, and had launched a fundraising campaign in hopes of finding a big donor savior. Sadly, that campaign raised only $900,000, and now there will be no circus this season, according to a post on the circus's Facebook page:
The circus began struggling financially around the economic downturn in 2008. Wall Street, once a major benefactor, stopped hiring performers for Christmas shows at their firms, depleting the circus's revenue. Then, there was Hurricane Sandy, the blizzard of 2014, and other factors out of the circus's control that crushed the budget, creating an insurmountable deficit.
Performers and staffers have since been let go, though the circus says it will use the cash it raised through the fundraising campaign to continue with its community programs, including Clown Cares, which sends performers to cheer up sick children and their families in hospitals. There is also some hope that the circus will return for future seasons.
“Our deepest thanks go out to the many people who sent donations and voiced their support for the Circus,” executive director Will Maitland Weiss said in a statement. “While the response was heartening, we ultimately did not raise enough cash to go forward with rehearsals and ticket marketing in August. However, we will continue operating Clown Care and other community programs and hope to be able to return to performing under our Big Top in a later season, including offering our specially adapted performances for children and families affected by physical and/or cognitive challenges.“