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Updated: Wallenda visits Niagara Falls to discuss high-wire walk

by jmaloni
Wed, Aug 3rd 2011 03:20 pm
Nik Wallenda listens to John Ceretto.
Nik Wallenda listens to John Ceretto.

Productive discussions between famed high-wire performer Nik Wallenda and state and local officials in New York continued today during a meeting held at the Top of the Falls Restaurant located within Niagara Falls State Park. Wallenda and a team of his advisors laid out plans and answered questions from American officials about how a high-wire walk above Niagara Falls could be accomplished logistically. Earlier this year, the New York State Legislature approved legislation allowing Wallenda to perform such a walk.

"After today's meeting, I'm more excited than ever about this walk," Wallenda said. "This will be a highlight in my career, and I'm thankful for all of the stakeholders who are contributing to our planning discussions. I recognize that this may be a once-in-a-century opportunity, and I want to do it right. There are a lot of logistical facets to consider, but I'm confident that we can all work together to make this an amazing success. I'm the guy up on the wire, but this will be a team effort."

Government representatives invited to the meeting included state, county, and city elected officials; representatives of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; and emergency management personnel, including representatives from the New York State Park Police, Niagara Falls Police Department and Niagara Falls Fire Department.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-C-Newfane, sponsor of the bill to permit Wallenda's high-wire walk (S.4844-A/A.8206-A) in the Senate, said, "Today's meeting was an opportunity to get down to the nuts and bolts of how we can pull this event off. Safety, security, engineering - these are all critical elements of a big, international event such as this. I commend Nik and his team for making themselves available to answer questions, take feedback, and forge ahead. If done right, this will be a signature event that the world will remember for a long time to come."

Maziarz noted that the event has already received widespread attention from media outlets such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, London Daily Telegraph, the BBC, "Today" and others.

State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-C-I, Buffalo, said, "This event will put Niagara Falls in the national and international spotlight. I look forward to this event and it will be exciting for all residents and tourists to attend. I was glad to participate in today's meeting and I think this is something positive that we can accomplish for the region."

"During today's meeting with officials from the State Parks Department, I stressed the importance of the high-wire event as a catalyst for growing the region's tourism industry and the significance this performance will have on highlighting the falls as a global destination for tourism," said Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, a cosponsor of the legislation that would enable the Wallenda walk to occur in his district. "While no one believes this event will be a cure-all for the local economy, the positive publicity Nik Wallenda will bring to the Niagara Falls area will help showcase it as a pre-eminent area for attractions and will help us compete on a global level for tourism dollars, ultimately leading to economic growth and job creation." 

Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga, who sponsored the Wallenda legislation in the Assembly, said, "The tourism industry is a leading force in Niagara Falls and across Western New York, and we're committed to making it stronger. Tourism leads to economic development, which will help create jobs in our region. We need to keep heading in that direction, and that's why our efforts to bring Nik Wallenda to our region are important."

Ceretto added the Discovery Channel is planning to air the event, which would bring global attention to the Falls.

"Press affiliates from around the world are interested in covering this event and the global publicity will help re-spark interest in the Falls," said Ceretto. "This will truly be a terrific event for the region, and I strongly encourage the governor to sign the legislation into law."

As far as safety is concerned, Wallenda reassured the state parks department of the safety precautions that he uses for his performances.

"Safety should not be an issue," Ceretto said. "Nik offered a very compelling and thorough detail of his security coordination that should alleviate any concerns. Our challenge is to prepare for the influx of people, a challenge we've been waiting to have for decades."

Wallenda will meet tomorrow with parks officials on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, who also must give their approval.

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