Tethered Wallenda walks wire across Niagara Falls

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“Awesome! The whole thing is awesome,” 8-year-old William Clements of Dresden, Ontario, said after watching the walk with his family from the Canadian side, adding he wouldn’t want to walk “even over something not high.”

“He was meant to do it. The weather was perfect,” said Glenda Rutherford of Ontario. “It was amazing.”

For Wallenda, who has grown up on the high wire and holds six Guinness records for various stunts, the Niagara Falls walk was unlike anything he’d ever done. Because it was over water, the 2-inch wire didn’t have the usual stabilizer cables to keep it from swinging. Pendulum anchors were designed to keep it from twisting under the elkskin-soled shoes designed by his mother.

The Wallendas trace their roots to 1780 Austria-Hungary, when ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers and trapeze artists. The clan has been touched by tragedy, notably in 1978 when patriarch Karl Wallenda, Nik’s great-grandfather, fell to his death during a stunt in Puerto Rico.

Wallenda said that at one point in the middle of the walk, he thought about his great-grandfather and the walks he had taken: “That’s what this is all about, paying tribute to my ancestors, and my hero, Karl Wallenda.”

About a dozen other tightrope artists have crossed the Niagara Gorge downstream, dating to Jean Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, in 1859. But no one had walked directly over the falls, and authorities hadn’t allowed any tightrope acts in the area since 1896. It took Wallenda two years to persuade U.S. and Canadian authorities to allow it, and many civic leaders hoped to use the publicity to jumpstart the region’s struggling economy, particularly on the U.S. side of the falls.

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Associated Press Writer Jennifer Peltz in New York City contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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