Wallenda to Walk Across Niagara as Tightrope Bill Passes New York Assembly

Posted Jun 22nd 2011 03:00 PM

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Wallendra to Walk Across Niagara as Tightrope Bill Passes New York Assembly

_gee_, flickr

The New York State Assembly voted Wednesday afternoon on an unusual piece of legislation, a bill directing the state's parks office to allow Nik Wallenda, of the "Flying Wallendas," to tightrope walk above Niagara Falls. Death-defying, tourism-friendly acts have long been outlawed at Niagara, but a companion bill had already passed the New York Senate.

The Assembly's decision: Let him do it.

The bill's author, Assemblyman Dennis Grabryszak, represents a western New York district near Niagara and told AOL Travel that the vote would represent a victory for local businesses.

"If you walk around Niagara Falls you'll see boarded up areas even during the tourist season," said Grabryszak. "He plans on doing this at the end of September or the beginning of October when tourism begins to dip and the event should help hotels, restaurants, and other businesses."


According to Grabryszak, the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Canada has already approved the project, which is intended to be a one-time event, not the beginning of open season for daredevils.

In a memo attached to the bill, Grabryszak made the case that the performance would not only attract tourists, but be in keeping with Niagara history. He also pointed out the fact that Mr. Wallenda having has his own Discovery Channel show won't hurt business.

"Daredevils and their exploits are a big part of the storied history of Niagara Falls. In 1859 Jean Francois Gravelot, also known as the 'Great Blondin' became the first person to traverse the Niagara River Gorge on a wire," read the memo. "Authorizing [Wallenda] to traverse the Niagara River Gorge, and promote this as a part of his popular television show will be a positive development to increase interest in Niagara falls and the surrounding area."

The Great Blondin, it should be noted, didn't just tightrope walk above the gorge: He used a wheelbarrow, carried a grown man and cooked an omelet.


Blondin aside, Niagara Falls stunts do have a long history of ending abruptly and without applause. Many of those who have gone over the falls in barrels have not survived and at least one tightrope walker has perished. Stephen Peer, a Canadian, made several crossings in 1887 before his body was found on the rocks below his rope one morning, forcing investigators to conclude he had made an unsuccessful attempt at a night crossing.

The daredevil family's own paterfamilias, Nik Wallenda's grandfather, met his end after falling off a rope in Puerto Rico in 1978. But tightrope walking wouldn't bring in the crowds if it wasn't dangerous.

Human sacrifice has been very much at the core of Niagara's tourism industry since the city invited Sam Patch to jump off the top of the falls in 1829. He survived and the city became a more popular destination.

Now that Niagara Falls has fallen on hard times – a Coldwell Banker Report released last week found that the city had the cheapest housing in the nation – some locals are saying the Wallenda event could provide the city with a much needed shot in the arm.

If Wallenda does walk across the gorge, Niagara Falls will definitely receiving a little more media attention; probably not quite so much as if he only walks half way.

Filed Under: News, Weird

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