Watch: Ringling Bros. circus opens for final time in Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. - If you want to catch the 'Greatest Show on Earth' one last time this is your chance.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus opened for the final time in Hampton Roads Thursday night.

Earlier this year the circus announced it would end its 146-year run in May, citing high operating costs and declining ticket sales.

A big crowd packed the Scope Arena for Thursday's performance with many calling it bittersweet.

"I grew up going to the circus every year when I was a kid and we've been going every year [with our oldest daughter, who's 24]," said John Hopkins of Virginia Beach. "It's sad that our grandkids won't get to see it and future generations will miss out on Ringling Brothers."

Natsuki Matsumura says she and her friend traveled all the way from Japan to see the show before it ends.

"We're sad, but it's our very first time coming here so very excited," she said.

In recent years the 'Greatest Show on Earth' has come under fire from animal rights activists for its treatment of animals.

PETA Norfolk is planning to protest the show throughout the weekend.

Performance Schedule:

Norfolk Scope

Thursday, March 23 -- 7:30 p.m.

Friday, March 24 – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 25 – 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 26 – 1:00 PM, 5:00 p.m.       

Hampton Coliseum

Wednesday, March 29 – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 30 – 10:30 AM, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, March 31 – 7:30 PM

Saturday, April 1 – 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 2 – 1:00 PM, 5:00 p.m.