ARTICLE: Wallenda says surprise stunt at Darien Lake ‘has definitely never been done before’

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, in the midst of arranging equipment for his secret stunt Saturday at Darien Lake Amusement Park, offered some hints about the event.

“It’s a surprise, it has to do with the cable, it involves my wife and a couple other performers as well,” said Wallenda during a brief break. The stunt, he said, “is a variation of something I’ve done before, but the way that we’re doing it has definitely never been done before.

“It’s great exciting promotion, and I’m happy to get back to Western New York and this community that I love so much and has always been so good to me.”

The performance Saturday, which happens at noon, is a preview of the Wallenda family’s residency at the amusement park from June 24 through September.

Wallenda, who walked across the Niagara River gorge near the brink of the Horseshoe Falls on June 15, 2012, is just latest tightrope-walker in a long line of so-called “funambulists” who walked cables across the Niagara River gorge between 1859 and 1896.

Those stunts included river crossings by the Great Blondin in which he carried his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back, and a stunt by Signora Maria Spelterini, who crossed with her feet strapped into bushel baskets.

But modern regulations and safety laws may rule out such variations now, Wallenda said.

“I don’t know that we would ever see that again,” Wallenda said. “I do believe that anything is possible, and my motto is ‘never give up,’ and I was able to get something done that no one in the world has ever done, which was walk directly over the falls. You know Blondin walked nearly a mile downstream of the falls, never walked over. So you know, anything is possible, and you never know.”

“I travel all over the country, and the hardest state to perform in is New York State,” said Wallenda. “The Department of Labor is extremely tough to deal with, the regulations they put on.”

Restrictions can actually make his performances more difficult, Wallenda said. “We know that with the tether, how uneasy I was, how nervous I was walking across Niagara Falls, which had nothing to do with the Department of Labor.

Wallenda mentioned the May 4 incident in Providence, R.I., where a “human chandelier” apparatus holding eight acrobats by their hair crashed to the ground before a horrified circus crowd, injuring all eight and one person on the ground. “That was a rigging error, it had nothing to do with those girls, those girls were hooked in, they couldn’t have done anything,” he said. All the injured performers are reportedly recovering.

Saturday, Wallenda said, “I just hope everybody comes out. It’s going to be an exciting event, and I look forward to seeing all of my friends and extended family right here in Western New York.”

Admission to the Wallenda show is free with general admission to the park, which is $45.99 for adults and $30.99 for those over age 55 and children shorter than 4 feet. Adult tickets are $39.99 if bought online, and all tickets are less if purchased at Tops Markets. A season pass is $64.99. Parking is $8 per day.

From June 24 to September, every day except Monday, Wallenda will perform two hourlong “Nik Wallenda: Beyond the Falls” shows in the park’s 1,800-seat indoor Galaxy Theatre on tightropes that range up to 55 feet above the ground.

Wallenda’s mother, Delilah, and wife, Erendira, will also perform in the show, which will include a pyramid act, bicycle riding and pole climbing. An “interactive tightrope training academy” will be held three times a day, a 30-minute film about the family’s high-flying feats will be shown regularly, and the Wallendas will participate in impromptu “pop-up” midway performances.

Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls was watched internationally by 13 million people. He also walked across the Grand Canyon last year.

Updated: May 23, 2014 — 12:18 am

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