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Just weeks after becoming the first person to ever tightrope directly over Niagara Falls, “King of the High-Wire” Nik Wallenda and his family made a stop in the Ozarks. Wallenda, his wife, his three kids, and a few other circus artists are performing at Silver Dollar City until the beginning of August. In addition to walking over Niagara Falls, Wallenda has broken six other world records in tightrope walking. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark went to see the show and files this report.
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I sat almost directly under a wire located 30 feet above the stage in the auditorium. This show featured the Wallenda family and other circus performers who are visiting Silver Dollar City. A packed audience watched as Nik, his wife Erendira, his family friend Jonah and his mother Delilah did stunt after stunt above our heads.
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Nik Wallenda is a seventh generation high-wire performer; his family started performing in Bohemia-Germany in the 1780’s. In 1928, the family immigrated to the United States and joined the Ringling Brothers Circus. Wallenda calls his great-grandfather an innovator of circus arts, in everything from training animals to, you guessed it, tightrope walking.
“My great-grandfather was somebody that liked to do things that most people don’t and create things that nobody’s ever seen before. He created the seven person pyramid on the wire and many, many other amazing feats. I’m following in the footsteps of giants and carrying on a tradition.”
And to this day, circus performing is truly a family business for the Wallendas.
“I started walking a wire when I was two years old. My mom was actually six months pregnant with me and still walking the wire. I have three children that all walk the wire. She was the woman that was on top of the chair between me and my partner who were on bicycles on the wire. My mom is…almost 60 years old.”
He says there really isn’t any way to perfect what he does, even if it does come naturally to him. Wallenda recalls his great-grandfather’s death, which happened after he fell off a wire walking between two buildings in Puerto Rico at the age of 73.
“You can never perfect it and you never become complacent. It’s one of the challenges of what we do because we’ve done it for so long, that it becomes normal. It’s just as easy for me to walk on a wire as it on the ground, but I can’t think that way because it becomes so much more dangerous.”
According to Wallenda, it’s more of a respect for the art that drives his family to tightrope. He says it doesn’t matter how high he is off the ground - if he controls his thoughts and meditates on what he’s been trained, he’s fine.
“My worst injuries I’ve had are three broken bones. I’ve broke a finger, a toe and an ankle, and all of them were in sports - two in football, one in tennis. I’ve never fallen from really up high; the highest I’ve fallen from was around 10 feet. That’s why we train as hard as we do, so we don’t fall. If there’s ever any issues up there, we can grab the wire, and the wire’s always a safe haven for us. No matter how high we are, the wire’s always at our feet.”
Wallenda credits his faith in Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and the reason he feels he can control his thoughts well when he’s in the air.
“People say often in the religious world, ‘are you testing God by going up there,’ not at all. I’ve trained my entire life for what I do. It’s not that I’m going, ‘Well God, if I fall, I fall,’ it’s not that at all. This is something that I’ve trained very hard for and it’s a family skill that we’ve had a long time.”
He says that if his grandfather was still alive, he would have been racing him across Niagara Falls.
Wallenda is scheduled to walk across the Grand Canyon next May in front of a live T.V. audience, just like he did a few weeks ago. Over 13 million people watched him complete that walk on ABC Network.
The Wallendas, who also do other stunts including acrobatics and aerial trapeze arts, will be performing at Silver Dollar City until August 4th.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.