TRENTON — Like most people growing up in New Jersey, I spent my fair share of time at the old Brendan Byrne Arena, no matter how many times the name changed. From Nets and Devils games, to concerts and WWF shows, they were trips north that I'll never forget. But for me, it all started with a trip to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Long before I knew what animal rights were, or that the circus was not a happy place for the animals I grew to love watch perform, I loved the circus. When I heard that Ringling Bros. was going to close for good it still made the kid inside me sad. So when I heard they were coming to Trenton's Sun National Bank Center one last time, I was so beyond glad to have a chance to show my 6-year-old daughter what makes the circus such a special place

Before that day at Brendan Byrne, the biggest arena I had ever seen was probably Princeton's Jadwin Gym, so the scope of the Meadowlands alone was enough to leave a young kid in awe. Add in everything that made the circus the "Greatest Show on Earth," and I was slack jawed for the duration of the show.

A lot has changed about the circus since that time, but it's still those same six words bellowing from the ringmaster — "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls" — that bring the crowd in to start an adventure that, as the name of this Ringling Bros. show is aptly named, is "Out of This World."

Even as the world's most famous circus prepares to fold up its tents for the last time, there was no question that the people who went to Trenton for the show on Saturday were both young, and young at heart for those two hours. The parade of elephants may have been replaced by a dazzling collection of ice skaters, rollerbladers, and performers on Segways, but the heart of the show was the same as I remembered it from a few decades ago.

We had been talking the circus up to my daughter in the weeks leading up to the show to make sure she was ready for what she was about to see. With her favorite stuffed tiger in hand she couldn't wait to see the real thing, and giant cats did not disappoint.

Sitting next to her grandmother, the same person who took me to my first circus, she watched in awe as the acrobats flew through the air with the greatest of ease, and smiled and laughed as the dogs performed their tricks. With pretzel in hand she never took her eyes off the performers and was by far the happiest face-painted "elephant" in the arena.

I doubt my mom spent $40 for a program and a light stick, and my daughter may not have been the biggest fan of some of the pyrotechnics, but I hope it's an experience she'll never forget. The Ringling Bros. circus may only have a little time left, but the memories they create are sure to go on long after the ringmaster tips his cap and exits the three-ring wonder for the last time.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or

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