Wallenda's Niagara Falls tightrope walk is a go
By CAROLYN THOMPSON Associated Press
NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario (AP) — Daredevil Nik Wallenda is set to walk a 1,800 foot tightrope across Niagara Falls this summer, a feat the seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas said has been his childhood dream.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world," Wallenda said Wednesday after the Niagara Parks Commission, which months ago refused even to consider the idea, voted unanimously to allow the walk between the United States and Canada.
Approval from the Canadian panel was Wallenda's largest remaining obstacle after he convinced the New York Legislature to pass a bill allowing the walk last year.
Wallenda plans to run a custom-made 2-inch wire 60 to 70 feet above the 160-foot gorge, which will dip down in the middle, meaning he'll walk downhill during the first half of the 30- to 40-minute walk and uphill until the end.
"My dream really is to walk down through that mist and walk back out," he said.
Wallenda has until the end of March to work out details of the walk, including its start and end points. He has a deal with Discovery television to broadcast the spectacle live.
While U.S. authorities immediately saw a potential economic and tourism boom, the Canadian panel feared such a stunt would cheapen the natural wonder of the falls and invite a return to the carnival-like atmosphere seen beginning in the mid-1800s, when daredevils sailed over the brink in barrels with mixed success and tightrope walkers traversed the gorge, though never the falls themselves.
The commissioners reconsidered the request after Wallenda gained the support of Ontario tourism minister Michael Chan and elected officials. They overcame their concerns by making the walk a once-in-a-generation event. Future walks will be considered only once every 20 years.
"Our primary focus is on recognizing that daredevil acts and stunting, tightrope walking, that they form part of the rich history of Niagara Falls itself and it's being recognized and in a way paid tribute to," Commission Chairwoman Janice Thomson said. "What we're attempting to do here is control it and treat it as a tribute."
The panel also was reassured by studies showing the walk wouldn't cost them anything and had the potential to increase revenue, she said. Wallenda will fund the walk himself.
"This has been a dream of mine ever since I was 6 years old," said the daredevil, who holds six Guinness World Records, including one set in 2008 for the longest distance and greatest height ever traveled by bicycle on a high wire.