Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda announced on Wednesday that he would attempt to cross the famed Niagara Falls on June 15.
Securing rites for the act at the daredevil Mecca was not easy. The 32-year-old stuntman, who bills himself as "King of the High Wire," spent months obtaining the necessary permissions from Canada and the United States for the cross-border stunt. Only after persistent lobbying of Canadian parks officials and an act of New York's Legislature was the stunt approved. On Wednesday, he held a press conference in Niagara Falls, Ont. to announce that the contracts had been signed and the date set.
Nik Wallenda speaks about his wire walk over the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls, as he stands beside the American Falls on May 2 in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
"Not only is it a dream but we had to change two laws in two countries that were over 100 years old," Wallenda said.
"Nothing like this has ever been done before anywhere in the world," he added. "This is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Wallenda has completed tightrope walks that are both higher and longer than his anticipated crossing of Niagara Falls, but said the international prestige of the location has a unique appeal.
"I've done walks longer. I've done walks in the rain that were longer and higher. But none of them will compare to this. This is the walk of my lifetime," he said.
Niagara Parks chairwoman Janice Thomson called the approval a "unique one-time situation" that was allowed after Wallenda proved he had proper controls and safety measures in place.
"Given Niagara's storied history with stunting and daredevil attempts, it is appropriate that Niagara Falls serve as the backdrop for this event; one which pays tribute to the individuals and performances of long ago, while highlighting Niagara Parks' ongoing role as one of the world's leading tourism destinations," Thomson said. "This event will allow NPC and our colleagues at the New York State Park to showcase our world-class venues and inspire all those who wish to make Niagara their vacation destination of choice."
Thomson cautioned that they would only accept requests for such events once every 20 years -- assuming Wallenda's stunt goes off as planned.
Niagara was the center of activity for daredevils around the world seeking thrill and fame in the early parts of the 20th century, but Wallenda will be the first performer in decades to attempt such a stunt.
The daredevil is a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wellendas, a legendary high wire family that boasts several feats in the Guinness Book of World Records. His historic tightrope walk is expected to draw around 120,000 people to both sides of the falls
The 1,800-foot journey between Terrapin Point on Goat Island to Table Rock in Canada will begin in the early evening and likely take a nerve-racking 30 to 40 minutes to complete. Wallenda will choose which side to start from that morning depending on the direction of the winds.
The "King of the High Wire" said he'd likely wear a special wetsuit for the event rather than his normal jeans and T-shirt. His walking shoes will be hand-crafted by his mother.
Practice walks on the two-inch steel cable will take place at the Seneca-Niagara Casino and the main event on June 15 will be televised live -- something a recent study suggested would stimulate a $120-million boost to the struggling Niagara economy.
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