Nik Wallenda plans to tightrope walk between Chicago skyscrapers blindfolded. A state law requires all tightrope walkers to have either a safety net or harness, but the City says that law should not apply to Wallenda. Should the city make an exception for Wallenda? Just what is the value of such a stunt to the city?
With more than a decade of experience and a long lineage of professionals, Nik Wallenda is one of the world's most marveled aerial acrobat. He is a seventh-generation member of the "Flying Wallendas" and has made a name for himself scaling across awe-inspiring heights. Learn more about five of his greatest feats below.
As part of Wallenda's "Walk Across America Tour," Nik walked across the front gate to the replica Eiffel Tower inside Mason, Ohio's King Island amusement park. The feat put him 262 feet in the air and had him travel 800 feet from one end to the other. He completed the walk in 25 minutes before a crowd of several thousand people. By the time he completed this feat, he had already achieved two Guinness World Records. At the time, this stunt was the highest walk of his career.
In 1978, Nik's great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell to his death while trying to walk a tightrope across the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 121-foot-high performance went awry when heavy winds caused Karl to lose his balance. Thirty-three years later, Nik and his mother Delilah, paid tribute to their fallen relative by walking across the hotel. Delilah and Nik walked from opposite ends of the rope and performed a daring crossover at the middle of the wire. At one point Nik knelt and blew a kiss in honor of his great-grandfather.
After two years of lobbying, Wallenda received official approval from Ontario's Niagara Parks Commission to walk across Ontario, Canada's Niagara Falls. The journey across was 1,804 feet long and 173 feet high. In addition to the scale of the feat, the walk was unique for Wallenda because of the restrictions he had to abide by. His television deal with ABC required him to wear a safety harness, a tool he publicly opposed wearing in the past.
Wallenda took his highwire act to Arizona in 2013, as he walked across the Little Colorado River Gorge in the Grand Canyon. This was the first special he did with the Discovry Channel, and it aired with a 10-second delay. The Canyon was measured at 1,500 feet high and currently marks the highest walk of his career. The walk was 1,400 feet and he covered it in a little more than 22 minutes.
In April, Wallenda set his eyes on Chicago. He expressed interest in walking from the Willis Tower to another skyscraper but ultimately decided on crossing the east and west Marina City Towers. He's currently in Sarasota, Fla. training for the performance. While Mayor Emanuel welcomes his performance, his act goes against state law according to the Illiniois General Assembly.
The Illinois Aerial Exhibitors Safety Act states,
“No person shall participate in a public performance or exhibition, or in a private exercise preparatory thereto, on a trapeze, tightrope, wire, rings, ropes, poles, or other aerial apparatus which requires skill, timing or balance and which creates a substantial risk to himself or others of serious injury by a fall from a height in excess of 20 feet, unless a safety net or other safety device of similar purpose and construction is placed between such person and the ground in such manner as to arrest or cushion his fall and minimize the risk of such injury.”
“No owner, agent, lessee or other person in control of operations of a circus, carnival, fair or other public place of assembly or amusement shall authorize or permit participation in an aerial performance, exhibition or private exercise in violation of Section 1 of this Act.”
"Violation of this Act is a Class A Misdemeanor."