By David Spunt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — History is being made over the next few days in Philadelphia. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey will be here through the weekend for the final time after years of controversy.

The company has come under a lot of criticism  for it’s treatment of animals, especially elephants. They went away last year, but with slumping sales and other factors, management decided it was time to turn out the lights.

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Behind the walls of the Wells Fargo Center, the cast of the greatest show on earth prepared for their final Philly weekend. Outside protesters stood in the cold, holding signs and voicing opposition to the show.

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“Any animal should never be used for entertainment. It’s not necessary. Not in today’s world,” said Philadelphia resident Joan Conn.

She believes the circus should not even be here this weekend. She wants it to close immediately.

“People seem to think when the animals are done performing they run free in a field somewhere. They don’t. They are locked in box cars,” Conn said.

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The show this weekend will include the usual acrobats, clowns and animals. Animals that protesters say are poorly treated and have been for decades. Now, they are closing.

The curtain opened for the first time in 1871. It’s been a tradition for families over the years; a time for parents and kids to bond.

“Oh, this is absolutely amazing. It’s always been a family tradition,” Patty Antes told Eyewitness News.

Antes and her daughter Jessica first came almost fifteen years ago. Now, they are here to continue the tradition one last time before the curtain closes forever.

“We’re very sad that this is going to be the last event,” Antes said.

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The circus will perform for the last time on May 21, 2017, 146 years after it opened.