— High wire entertainer Nik Wallenda has been awing audiences his entire life. His next high-rise stop is Atlantic City.
High wire entertainer Nik Wallenda has been performing with his family since the age of 2, now belonging to the seventh generation of the family also known as The Flying Wallendas.
“I began walking the wire at the age of four, but was never pushed into it by my parents,” said the 33-year-old Wallenda, set for a long appearance at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, beginning this Sunday and running through Sept. 22. “In fact, when I first started performing professionally, I was the one who had to convince my parents to let me do it.”
They agreed, and Wallenda went on to become one of the best known performers in his family. He recently broke all kinds of records by walking a wire strung across Niagara Falls. The June 15 walk was watched on TV by an estimated 1 billion people, and made Wallenda the only person in the world to achieve the walk.
“I was fulfilling a dream by doing that,” Wallenda said. “Ever since my parents took us to the Falls when I was about six years old, I thought how cool and thrilling it would be to walk across the Falls, so it was something I always pursued as a possibility.”
The whole Wallenda family history has always been one of creating thrills and chills, one that began when the Wallendas first came to America in 1928 at the behest of John Ringling.
Legend goes their net was lost in shipping so they worked without a net 55 feet high in Madison Square Garden. After the act, they heard yelling. The Wallendas thought they would be fired on the spot. Instead, they were given a 15-minute standing ovation.
“And we’ve never used a net from then on,” said Wallenda, until he was forced to wear a harness for protection during his Niagara Falls walk. “You know, dealing with lawyers is my biggest challenge in doing my job. They are always worried about liability. So I had to wear something this time, but I never want to do it again.”
Working without a net caused the death of great-grandfather Karl Wallenda who, unfortunately, lost his balance walking between two buildings in Puerto Rico.
“I eventually decided to recreate that stunt,” the young Wallenda said. “I saw the video of my great-grandfather falling hundreds of times, so I mentally prepared myself to do it myself. It worked.”
Since then, there have been many other stunts this Wallenda, who holds seven world records, has achieved. And, hopefully, he said, there will be many, many more.
“I train as an athlete,” he explained. “When I’m not in the gym five days a week, I’m training four to five hours a day, sometimes six days a week. For the Niagara Falls walk, I trained in fifty-mile-an-hour winds in heavy mist on the same cable with the same tension just so I could get used to and face all kinds of forces out there. I respect the fact that what I do presents many dangers, and that’s why I train so hard.”
During his Atlantic City appearance, Wallenda and his wife, Erendira, climb two towering steel spires known as sway-poles, combining strength, balance and daring in an array of acrobatics at dizzy heights, as well as an iconic Wallenda family stunt — a two-tiered, three-person pyramid using a chair and two bicycles. The show also includes other artists from around the world.
The father of three, Wallenda says he neither encourages nor discourages his children to join in the “family business. My wife and I just encourage them to study and focus on their education. They have my blessing to do whatever they choose to do as a career. They have an amazing legacy, but we leave it up to them to follow any path they choose.”
As for Nik Wallenda, he’s doing exactly what he wants to do.
“I get paid to make people happy, inspire them and put a smile on their faces. For me, that makes everything I do worthwhile,” he said. “My grandfather once said, ‘Life is being on the wire; everything else is just waiting.’ To me, I’m alive when I’m on the wire.” ••
For times and ticket information, call 1-800-736-1420.