What You Get for Walking Across Niagara Falls on a Tightrope

NFHblog5.jpegDaredevil tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, who famously crossed a tightrope traversing the Niagara Falls in June 2012, has now been honored with a statue commemorating his accomplishment. The statue was erected on Goat Island, about 25 yards from where Wallenda began his journey, on the U.S. side of the park. The 4.5-foot-high, two-ton limestone marker includes a piece of the cable Wallenda used to complete his historic crossing. Wallenda was the first person to tightrope walk over the actual falls, and the first permitted to attempt such a journey at all since 1896. Previous Niagara Falls tightrope walkers attempted their feats further downstream.

One for the History Books

Nik Wallenda’s June 15, 2012 crossing of the Niagara Falls by tightrope occurred only after Wallenda petitioned the American and Canadian governments for permission for two years. Tightrope acts crossing the falls had been banned for over a century, since 1896. Civic leaders say the publicity stunt brought Niagara Falls back into the public eye as a vacation and honeymoon destination.

About 129,000 people — 125,000 on the Canadian side and about 4,000 on the American side — watched the tightrope crossing in person. A further 10 million people around the world watched the 26-minute, 1,800-foot crossing on television. When he set foot on Canadian soil, customs officials were ready to inspect Wallenda’s American passport.

A Career-Boosting Feat

NFHblog6.jpegOn July 7, 2014, New York State officials unveiled the monument honoring Wallenda and his historic crossing. The marker, which sits on Goat Island on the American side of the falls, overlooks the Horseshoe Falls and Terrapin Point, where Wallenda’s tightrope wire was strung.

Jack Glennie, who works in the Niagara Falls visitor center, designed the monument, which is topped by an actual piece of the tightrope wire Wallenda used. Glennie used his 20 years of experience as a commercial artist to design the monument. The limestone used in the monument came from the park area, and the bronze plaque affixed to the monument sports a photograph of Wallenda crossing the falls, taken by Buffalo News photographer James P. McCoy.

Wallenda had dreamed of tightrope walking the falls since he first visited them at age four. He called the monument a “huge honor” and declared, “My heart will always be here because this was the walk.”

His successful completion of the Niagara Falls walk opened doors for Wallenda. In 2013, he was able to tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, and this year, he plans a tightrope feat in Chicago.

Nik Wallenda comes from a long line of tightrope walkers and circus performers. The Wallenda Family has been performing acrobatic feats since the 1780s. Wallenda’s great-grandparents, Karl and Helen Wallenda, performed with the Ringling Brothers Circus. Karl Wallenda was killed when he fell from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978.

The unveiling of a monument to Nik Wallenda, the performer who became the first person to cross the Niagara Falls on a tightrope, took place earlier this month in New York. Wallenda declared the monument an honor, and stressed the deep emotional connection he feels with the Niagara Falls area. Canadian officials have expressed their intention to erect their own monument to Wallenda on their side of the border.

Images by Dave Pape from Wikimedia Commons.

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