Tightrope walker to attempt first crossing of Niagara Falls in a century

NEW YORK Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:38am IST

Nik Wallenda poses for a photo at Niagara Falls, New York August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz/Files

Nik Wallenda poses for a photo at Niagara Falls, New York August 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Doug Benz/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Canada agreed on Wednesday to allow a member of the Flying Wallenda family of daredevils to attempt a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls, clearing the way for the stunt some time during the summer.

Nik Wallenda, 33, secured support on the American side of the falls last September when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill giving him one year to perform the feat, which Wallenda says will be the first attempt in more than a century.

On Wednesday, the board of Canada's Niagara Parks Commission voted unanimously to allow Wallenda to go ahead, reversing its earlier decision.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was 6 years old," Wallenda said by telephone from Niagara, where he had earlier attended the board meeting. "This was a dream many told me was impossible: two countries to change laws. I'm blessed, that's all I can say."

The Niagara Parks Commission also passed a motion on Wednesday barring a similar stunt more than once every 20 years.

"This decision was approved in part in recognition of the role that stunting has played in the history and promotion of Niagara Falls," Janice Thomson, the chairwoman of the commission, said in a statement.

"We have made it clear that this is a very unique one-time situation. It's not an everyday activity and will not be allowed to become an everyday activity."

Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the Wallenda family of circus performers who said he has been tightrope-walking since he was 2 years old, said he will be the first person to ever cross directly over the falls. Past attempts took place further down the gorge, he said.

"I'll be walking through the mist thrown off by the falls," he said, adding that although that may sound as though it would cause slippery conditions, his suede wire-walking shoes actually grip better when wet.

He plans to rig a 2-inch-diameter wire rope between cranes on either side of the falls, some 1,800 feet apart, he said. The date has not been set, but is expected to be in the summer.

He will continue to train on a full-scale high-wire rig on an airport runway in Pittsburgh, with simulated mist.

"I've done walks farther and higher," he said. "This will be the most iconic."

(Editing by Greg McCune and Cynthia Osterman)

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