Big Apple Circus launches fundraising campaign to save show

JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) -- The Big Apple Circus is New York City's own, but the clowns, tumblers and jugglers may take a final bow in just a few days.

The season is set to end Sunday, and unless the circus raises a lot of money quickly, it will be the last.

The one-ring circus has been entertaining crowds in an intimate setting for 38 years, and with just 1,500 seats, the experience is both charming and exciting. It's also a non profit, offering programs for the elderly, clown care at hospitals and after-school clown classes.

But it's not all smiles and laughter under the big tent. The circus is in financial crisis, a deficit that has accumulated over the past eight years.

"The problems really started back during the financial crisis of 2008," marketing director Karen Zornow Leiding said. "Before then, we used to get a great deal of money from corporations and banks who would buy out our entire tent for private performances."

After the market crashed, companies stopped buying out the big tent for private events. Zornow Leiding said the loss of revenue was made worse by Superstorm Sandy, which shut down performances in New York; the Boston Marathon bombing, which impacted shows in Boston; and Atlanta ice storms that made the tent unusable.

"We are at a point where we really need to bring in enough money to make sure that we have a season next year," she said. "Or we're going to have to close the circus."

It's so tenuous -- the circus needs to raise $2 million in a matter of weeks -- that it's turning to crowd funding in the hopes that New Yorkers will be inspired to get on board and save this homegrown circus.

"I hope it doesn't close," attendee Vanessa King said, "I hope that they are able to keep the performances, because I think it's a great enrichment for the children and...for the adults as well."

Denise Paige says she'll give money to ensure her granddaughter and other kids get to see the spectacle in the future.

"It really saddens me," she said. "We need to really find some funding to help the Big Apple Circus...Definitely (I would give), and I would definitely have all my friends give too. It's wonderful. It's one ring, you can see it from anyplace in the stadium, and it's just wonderful."

And for other parents, it's certainly more beneficial than the alternative.

"In this digital world, any human type of interaction is better than kids watching TV or playing around with iPads," one father said. "And there's definitely value to this."

CLICK HERE for more on the Save the Big Apple Circus campaign or to make a donation.

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