The 7th generation family member of the famous Flying Wallendas is the latest daredevil to tempt fate at Niagara Falls. Wallenda was in the local news earlier this year trying to get Canadian authorities to give him the okay. Officials on the US side had already agreed to his stunt but the Niagara Parks Commission in Ontario, Canada, held out until February. Maybe the $120 million Wallenda’s tightrope act is expected to generate in tourism dollars is was what changed their minds. Watch for the June 15 date to be televised worldwide.
It’s not the first time Niagara Falls has gone with a publicity stunt. In 2000, four hundred lovers from around the world tied the knot in an outdoor event on Valentine’s Day to boost winter tourism. An unexpected snowstorm and at least one very pregnant bride made it a good photo op but a mass wedding pales by comparison to a 1200 foot summer tightrope walk between the American and Canadian falls without a net.
A quick bit of research on the Flying Wallendas and it’s no wonder Canadian authorities may be a little weak-kneed. Nik Wallenda’s dad died in a tightrope promotion in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1978. In 1962, a 7-member Wallenda pyramid chair on tightrope went south and killed a Wallenda son-in-law and paralyzed a Wallenda nephew. Then in 1963, a Wallenda sister-in-law fell to her death. That was followed in 1972 by another son-in-law’s death due to a live wire set too close to the rope’s metal rigging.
Despite his family’s less-than-perfect tightrope record, Wallenda is raring to go. Maybe that has something to do with Niagara Falls’ long history with daredevils including tightrope walkers. Charles Blondin became The Great Blondin after he was the first to successfully cross the Niagara Gorge by tightrope in 1859. Henry Bellini followed him, crossing three times in 1873. Stephen Peer was next but his problem was he didn’t know when to quit. In 1887, after successfully completing a double crossing, Peer was found dead below his cable after a reputed night of drinking followed by an unscheduled performance. Samuel Dixon was the last to cross in 1890. Plenty more daredevils have vyed for fame at Niagara Falls since but none have been tightrope walkers. You might say Niagara Falls is due.