CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A Conway man is reflecting on his time as a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus after it was announced the big top would be coming down for good after 146 years.
Bryan Fulton described his six years with Ringling Bros., as his version of college. He began his stint at 17 years of age and worked, slept and ate with roughly 400 other performers.
"We were a big family," Fulton said.
He admits his parents weren't initially on board, but it didn't take long for Fulton to change their minds.
"Once they saw me perform actually in the circus, my dad knew that it was the right thing, the right decision," he said. "I kept telling him, 'I can go to college any time; I can't do this any time.'"
With his parents' approval, Fulton went on working for the circus for the next six years of his life.
He had the opportunity to travel all over the world, but his absolute stop was performing at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
Throughout his travels, Fulton met a number of celebrities, such as Mary Lou Retton and Bob Hope. For a while, his life was exactly how he wanted it.
Finally, the day came when he began to get tired of the day-to-day traveling and performing.
"The road kind of wears on you," Fulton said. "You're traveling, you're living out of a suitcase essentially."
That is when he said goodbye to the circus. However, Fulton's love for juggling never left him. To this day, he still travels around the U.S. performing shows as a comedy juggler.
However, the circus will always hold a special place in his heart.
"Ultimately, we all knew it had a shelf life," Fulton said. "I don't think anyone was expecting it to be this soon. We thought it maybe had another 10 years in it."
The decision to close Ringling Bros., stemmed from issues over animal rights and a steady decline in attendance over the past few decades.