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Recapping the Road to Daredevil Nik Wallenda’s Walk Over Niagara Falls

Nik Wallenda high-wire walk Niagara Falls
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Daredevil Nik Wallenda takes on Niagara Falls tonight in front of a live TV audience.  Eyes all over the world will be watching as the stuntman crosses the Falls from the U.S. to Canada via tightrope. Will you?

33-year-old Nikolas Wallenda was born to walk the high wire. A seventh-generation Wallenda, of The Flying Wallenda family, Nik first stepped on a tightrope at age 2, began wire walking at age 4 and performed his first professional wire act at the age of 13. He proposed to his wife, Erendira, in the midst of a high wire act; they have three children now.

Wallenda has performed stunts around the world, amazing crowds and breaking Guinness World Records.  He pretty much lives his life up there. So when he was asked what inspired him to attempt to walk across Niagara Falls, it’s no surprise that, according to InfoNiagara, he quoted his great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, who said, “Life is being on the wire; everything else is just waiting.”

Wallenda has been waiting quite a while to walk a high wire over Niagara Falls. To attempt the stunt, he needed permission from governments on both sides of the Falls. But Wallenda was able to convince New York State and the province of Ontario that the walk would bring tourists and money to the area, and after a few hurdles and months and months of lobbying, he finally got permission, and the date was set: Friday, June 15, 2012.

Over the last few months, Wallenda has practiced for tonight’s big event. He spent two weeks on a high wire in the Seneca Niagara Casino parking lot, and tourists could catch a peek. Since getting permission for the Falls walk, Wallenda has also made a walk over Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, complete with what looked like a little slip, likely for dramatic purposes. Wallenda has acknowledged adding dramatic touches at times for entertainment.

When Wallenda steps out onto the tightrope this evening, despite his own obejections, he is expected to be wearing a tether for safety reasons. Sponsors, including ABC, who will be broadcasting the walk live, demanded the safety precaution. However, Wallenda has said that if the tether becomes a bother, he will take it off.

At one point, when Wallenda had difficulty attracting sponsors, he began asking for donations. He was looking for $50 thousand to cover the cost of staging the event. In return, those who donated could receive anything from an exclusive photo to a backyard wire-walking lesson.

The wire for tonight’s walk was installed across the Falls earlier this week. The process of putting the nearly-8-ton cable in place took several days, a large crew and a helicopter, as well as lots of other heavy machinery.

Tickets for tonight’s event were handed out free of charge — yes, free. About two weeks ago, the first 4,000 people who managed to get vouchers online or via phone came away with passes to see Wallenda make history. The tickets were gone in minutes but have since been turning up on resale websites for big bucks.

Tonight’s event is making headlines around the world — perhaps because of the wonder of Niagara Falls. Maybe because a stunt like this one has never been tried before so close to the brink of the Falls.  Or maybe because we all – including Wallenda himself, who lost his grandfather during a walk in Puerto Rico – realize the risk involved in attempting such a feat.

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