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Ringling Bros. In Tampa For Farewell Tour

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in Tampa for some of its last shows. While crews were busy at the Amalie Arena Tuesday setting up for the tour, a small group of performers put on a kind of mini-circus at the Straz Center.

Kristen Michelle Wilson is the first female ringmaster in Ringling's 146-year history, and says it's an amazing opportunity.

“To walk out onto the floor at the beginning of the show and to say those iconic words, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth!’- that is the biggest thrill of my life,” Wilson said.

Wilson and a few fellow performers sang, danced, juggled and clowned-around in front of a crowd of excited students with the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory.

She says it's been bittersweet for her and her team since they got the news this would be the final season.

"This is a show that is so close to our hearts," Wilson said. "But at the core of us we work in show biz and we understand that the show must go on."

So they've got about 4 months to do it right.

"And every time I think we're challenging ourselves to be better and better because we know that this is it," Wilson said.

The farewell tour for "Circus Xtreme" continues at the Amalie Arena through Sunday.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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