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Feld Entertainment, the Palmetto-based parent company of the former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, laid off an unknown number of employees Friday and halted all of its entertainment tours, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving reason.
The company currently operates Disney On Ice, Marvel Universe Live, Jurassic World Live Tour, Monster Jam and Sesame Street Live.
Government-mandated limits on public gatherings forced the company to stop its live event tours until further notice, said Stephen Yaros, senior vice president of global communications.
“Although we hope to resume operations soon, there is no assurance of when that will happen,” Yaros said. “Therefore, we had to make difficult decisions to reduce the size of our workforce through company-wide layoffs.”
Yaros declined to say how many employees were affected across the company, or whether any events would be shut down permanently.
According to two employees who were laid off this week, Feld told workers Friday morning in person and by phone about the reductions.
“When they shut down all the venues with large gatherings, I saw the writing on the wall,” said Jim Reid, who purchased supplies for shows. “I knew it was just a matter of time if COVID-19 kept snowballing."
Reid, who worked at Feld for five years, said he has spent 18 years in purchasing positions. He is currently looking for work.
Kyle Nass, who also worked in purchasing since August 2019, got the call at about 10 a.m. Employees received varying lengths of severance, and their insurance coverage will stop at the end of the month.
Nass, who had been taking nursing classes at night before the layoffs, said he intends to search for jobs and fill his time with volunteering and helping others when possible and allowable during the pandemic.
“I think this is a real wake-up call,” he said.
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