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Big Apple Circus Pared to Core by Cash Crunch; Faces Looming Shutdown

The Big Apple Circus, a New York institution is facing a looming shutdown because of a cash crunch. It's making an emergency appeal for funds (Photo: Getty)

The Big Apple Circus, a New York institution is facing a looming shutdown because of a cash crunch. It’s making an emergency appeal for funds (Photo: Getty)

The Big Apple Circus, founded in New York City 38 years ago, may be dropping its big top for the last time. The show put out an urgent appeal today for a “cash infusion” to stave off shuttering next season’s performances and closing “possibly for good.” Have a spare $600,000?

The circus revealed its financial crisis several weeks ago and began an urgent $2 million fundraising campaign to keep it afloat.

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The effort, however, has fallen short of its goal to raise a hefty $250,000 a week.

Now, the circus needs a “significant infusion by Friday (June 24),” to keep the ball rolling into next year, according to executive director Will Maitland Weiss.

“Several large supporters have made pledges, but those are contingent on our getting much closer to our target,” he explained. “And so, our cash is dwindling.”

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“We are at a point where we are living day to day, week to week. We must raise $600,000 by Friday in order to preserve our circus for the upcoming season and beyond,” he added.

To date, the non-profit organization had raised more than $400,000 and received another $300,000 in pledges from its board, ticket buyers, current and former staff members, and others.

The circus has also raised $90,000 from about 900 donors through its crowdfunding site save the circus.

With the infusion, the fall season will be cancelled, and it is unlikely they will be resumed in future seasons, according to Weiss.

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Former street performers Paul Binder and Michael Christensen co-founded The Big Apple Circus in 1978. The first performances were staged in Manhattan’s Bryant Park.

In the intervening years, the circus went national and has performed all over the country. But more recently, circuses, especially those with performing animals, have come under fire from animal rights groups.

The show features dogs, horses, camels, llamas and ponies on its Web site.

It says trainers use only “positive reinforcement” to encourage the animals to perform physical feats. The acts focus on “extensions and refinements of gestures” the animals exhibit naturally.

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“The Big Apple Circus is a cultural treasure that has brought joy and wonder to families and children of all ages and abilities, all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and all income levels for 38 years, and we want to be here for them for generations to come,” said Big Apple Circus artistic director Guillaume Dufresnoy.

individuals can make contributions online at savethecircus, or by contacting Lauren Braun at (646) 616-6829.

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