Niagara Falls tightrope walker Nik Wallenda will attempt to walk a fine line suspended 173 feet above Horseshoe Falls on Friday and in doing so accomplish an unprecedented feat while attracting tourists to the struggling city on the U.S. side of the falls, many hope.
Wallenda, 33, will walk about 1,550 feet on a wire suspended over 170 feet above Horseshoe Falls – the biggest of the three falls that comprise Niagara Falls.
Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the Great Wallendas, a traveling family circus troupe dating to 1780, said of the event: “It’s very exciting. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
Wallenda has said that he has imagined crossing the falls on a tightrope since he visited with his parents at the age of six.
“I remember looking across and thinking, it would be cool to be the first person in the world to do this,” said Wallenda.
Crossing the Niagara River on a tightrope was banned in 1890. Throughout history, 13 tightrope artists have crossed the gorge, but no one has yet walked directly over the raging falls.
Many are keeping a close eye on Friday’s event as they hope the publicity will spark the city’s floundering tourism industry. Over the past 50 years, the town’s population has fallen from 100,000 to 50,000.
Paul Gromosiak, the author of a series of books on Niagara Falls and its tightrope acts, told AFP that “a majority of people in the city are either retired or on welfare. Two thirds are in that situation. Only one third is working and most of the jobs are low paying,” leaving the town with an unemployment rate.11.5 percent, higher than the national average.
John Percy, the man in charge for promoting tourism for the town, has said that he believes the publicity stunt will do a lot to help the struggling city, but that it will not solve all the town’s problems. “It is worth its weight in platinum, even better than gold,” Percy said.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but a lot is happening,” Percy added. “Wallenda is one of the many things I hope that will rejuvenate this city.”
Wallenda’s Niagara Falls tightrope act can be seen Friday on ABC. Countdown to Niagara: The Greatest Megastunt of All Time will air from 8-9 p.m., followed by Megastunts: Highwire Over Niagara Falls – Live! from 9-11 p.m.