Elephants exit stage right as top comes down on ‘Greatest Show on Earth’


ATLANTA – After 146 years, The Ringling Brother’s Circus is passing into American history, with plans to perform their last show in May of 2017.

The circus began in the mid-1800s when Phineas Barnum trained animals to do spectacular tricks, and the five Ringling brothers performed skits filled with death-defying acts.  The two eventually combined to create the modern-day circus.

People from all over America traveled to see the oddities that the “Greatest Show on Earth” held. However, as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”

circus 12017 performance of Barnum and Bailey’s circus. (Submitted Photo)

A variety of reasons contribute to the decision to end the show, though high-operating costs paired with declining attendance rates play a small role in the decision.

According to the Associated Press, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus said “it has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

One of the biggest reasons for the show ending is due to the costly, drawn-out battle with animal rights activists.

For years, the circus has been battling with activists that say forcing animals to perform is unnecessary and cruel.  The activists eventually won the fight in 2016 when all of the elephants from the circus were sent to live on a conservation farm in Florida.

“When we lost the elephants, we lost the show,” said Juliette Feld, the company’s chief operating officer.

Animals were a staple of the show, starting when Barnum brought an elephant named Jumbo to America in the 1800s.  Elephants soon became an immediate spectacle, weighing in at around 10,000 pounds each, yet having the capability to do handstands, or balance on a ball.

Research shows that ticket sales dropped by nearly 30 percent after the elephants were eliminated from the show in May of 2016.

circus 2Elephants performing one of their many tricks for the circus. (Submitted Photo)

The endangered Asian elephants were retired into one of the most prestigious research and care-taking facilities for elephants in the world.

The Feld Company owns the 200-acre conservation center in central Florida that the retired elephants now inhabit.  All 42 of the circus elephants now reside in the Center for Elephant Conservation, or CEC, where professionals care for them around the clock.

The main goal of the staff at the CEC is to protect and research the Asian elephants. With the arrival of the final load of circus elephants, the CEC now boasts the largest elephant herd in the Western hemisphere, with over 50 adults and 21 babies, all born at the conservation center.

There may be sadness for many as they look back and reminisce on the days of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s circus, they can, at least, take heart in the fact they got to experience it at all.  Many will never experience the magic of seeing the acrobats do flips on tight ropes nearly 40 feet in the air, or watching elephants gallivant the ring bowing to the crowds after the completion of a show.

The circus ran for 146 years, “a year older than baseball” Kenneth Feld likes to brag, and it brought joy to people all over America. Now, after nearly a century and a half of entertainment, the curtain is finally closing on “The Greatest Show on Earth.”







Local Family-Owned Construction Company Expands Rapidly

Working Together Strengthens Family Ties


MARIETTA, Ga. — In the last four years, Marietta-based and family-owned company, OxBuilt Construction, has seen a large amount of growth and has no intentions of slowing down.

OxBuilt Construction doubled its profits in 2016 and already has more than $2 million worth of work scheduled for 2017.

“We have no intentions of selling the business, but if we did we wouldn’t take less than $1 million at this point,” said Richard Barrett, president of OxBuilt Construction. “Our business is still growing in the Southeast.”

OxBuilt Construction has been thriving in the metro Atlanta apartment market.

“We have done some jobs for hotels and other businesses, but the majority of our contracts are for the building or renovation of apartment complexes,” office manager Nichole Barrett said.

OxBuilt Construction frequently attends charity events for both the Atlanta Apartment Association and the National Apartment Association, and is a member with both organizations.

In the past two years, OxBuilt Construction has been tackling more and more projects outside of Georgia. They have built and renovated buildings in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida.

A second office recently opened in Jacksonville, Florida, to help manage the demand of hotel restoration and apartment complex contracts the company has received.

Humble Beginnings

Expansion was not always on the mind of 27-year-old CEO R.J. Barrett. Prior to forming OxBuilt Construction in 2012, Barrett was a foreman for another construction company until the day they, abruptly, went out of business.

“I was tired of working for other people,” R.J. Barrett said. “I wanted to be my own boss. I saved as much money as I could after losing my job and just started making plans.”

Barrett, initially, partnered with his family on his new business venture instead of seeking outside investors. Both Barrett and his father, Richard Barrett, used their prior knowledge and construction experience to launch the business.

“We went to a lot of trade shows to network and took on smaller projects just to get income flowing in,” R.J. Barrett said. “We invested most of our profits back into the business.”

OxBuilt Construction Looks Toward Future

As OxBuilt Construction’s presence increases throughout the Southeast, so do their aspirations.

“My hope for OxBuilt Construction is that the company will eventually grow to the point that regular people will start to notice us and recognize our brand as they sit in traffic and see our job sites,” Nichole Barrett said.


Nichole Barrett at Marietta office (Photo by Becky Beaver)

Nichole Barrett and other members of the sales team make regular appearances in the community by setting up information booths at festivals and handing out information on the business along with stress balls shaped like oxen. The company also invested in an ox mascot suit worn by various employees out in public.

OxBuilt Construction said they are interested in more expansion, but only time will tell how much the company will evolve.

“We’ve considered moving into neighborhood development and we’re looking into more government contracts to work on official buildings and schools,” Nichole Barrett said. “We’re not ruling anything out for 2017.”


Working Together Strengthens Family Ties


MARIETTA, Ga. – OxBuilt Construction has built countless homes for families, but their office, located in Marietta, has become much like a home to CEO R. J. Barrett and his family.

OxBuilt Construction currently has 11 employees, two of whom are directly related to Barrett himself. While Barrett serves as CEO and owner, his younger sister, Nichole Barrett, is the office manager and his father, Richard Barrett, is the president of his company. Along with OxBuilt’s permanent staff, Barrett also frequently hires extended family members as subcontractors for various construction projects.

The original OxBuilt Construction office is located in Marietta where the Barrett family have been long time residents. Fittingly, the office where Barrett and his family work used to be an old home, now re-purposed into an office space.

“It’s nice to come to work and see your family,” said Barrett. “Many people only get to see their families for a few hours after work, and even less if you don’t all live in the same house. Here at OxBuilt, we make decisions about business every day that have benefited my family greatly.”

While many families shy away from going into business with one another, the Barretts said they have no hesitation on their decision to work together.

”We have a really good work environment here,” said Nichole Barrett. “We all have similar personalities and get along well. At the end of the day, we don’t talk about work after hours unless it’s something really important, or one of us has a really funny story about something that happened.”

Kennesaw business hires recent college graduates


KENNESAW, Ga. — Many college graduates struggle to get hired, but Down to the Wire is giving those former students a chance.

“We’ve seen how hard it is for students to find jobs,” said Lynne Tipton, office manager for Down to the Wire. “They work so hard in school and have almost nothing to show for it.”

Down to the Wire installs data cabling for routers and provides phone service for voice over Internet protocol phones. The business also provides repair services to existing cabling in commercial office spaces and large residential homes.

The Kennesaw business has grown from a bedroom office, which only did small jobs, to having contracts with some of the largest office buildings in Atlanta.

The business was started in 2008 by CEO Frank Wear.

“I’m proud of the work done by recent graduates that I have employed,” Wear said. “In a way, it’s better for the business to have new hires that don’t have tons of experience.”

Down to the Wire has hired graduates from Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, Westwood College and Georgia Tech.

“Most of our recent graduates come from having worked on a technical or engineering degree, and we train them to our high standard of how good cabling should be done,” Wear said. “Our company is more interested in having employees that are eager to learn than those set in their ways.”

Tipton and Wear are proud that they are able to help people build their resumes and pursue work in their career field.

“Over 60 percent of our employees have graduated within a year of applying,” said Tipton.

If you or a recent graduate in your life is looking for technical work, Down to the Wire might be a good fit.

For more information on employment opportunities, call 404-307-7355 or email your resume and cover letter to fwear@down2thewire.net.