Wallenda Successfully Completes Wire Walk Over Sarasota
Nik Wallenda crossed U.S. 41 in Sarasota 200 feet in the sky on a wire to help promote his Circus Sarasota show.
He made it.
Nik Wallenda successfully crossed U.S. 41 in Sarasota 200 feet above the ground Tuesday morning on a wire, providing a postcard view of the Circus City.
Though most viewers either viewed it from the ground, their condo units or on TV, Sarasota on a wire looks beautiful as he stretched from the crane by the Unconditional Surrender statue going eastbound about 600 feet to a penthouse condo atop Marina Tower, Wallenda said.
"It looks just as amazing as it does down here," Wallenda told Patch, about his walk that took less than 10 minutes to complete. "It's a beautiful city, and I want to buy that condo when I can afford it."
About 10,000 to 12,000 people attended the walk, according to estimates from the Sarasota Police Department.
Wallenda's walk came together relatively quickly. It was just one week ago that the City Commission approved Wallenda's walk without a tether, and the rest of the week was spent securing permits to close down U.S. 41.
And then just to get up to the wire included some danger, too. The crane company was concerned about Wallenda riding up on the headache wrecking ball, so instead he had to be lifted in a basket and then climb a ladder to the wire where he had to lean down to grab his balance pole from Pedro Reis, co-founder and CEO of Circus Sarasota.
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"It actually makes it more dangerous to be honest, but it's procedure, so that's what we do," Wallenda said.
Florida Department of Transportation didn't let Wallenda's crew to first close down the road until 3 a.m. for the initial rigging.
"Because it was so dark out last night when it was rigged you couldn't see how high [the wire] was," Wallenda said. "So this morning we came in and realized it was about 25 feet too high. I would have been walking very, very steep downhill."
After some adjustments, there was still a 12-foot height difference.
"All's well that ends well," he said.
Still, there is always something unexpected during each wire walk. Here, the wire wasn't as taught as he liked as the rope pullers didn't anchor the wire to his liking, as it moved on his feet a bit.
At one point during the live broadcast, he told TV viewers "Who do I need to spank when I get down?"
Battling winds that he joked felt like "900 miles per hour," Wallenda said the wind was stronger than expected and that his Niagara Falls walk in 2012 with the rain and the gusts helped him mentally prepare for this walk.
Wallenda notably has his family by his side helping him rig and repair, and folks at the walk also saw Jungle Jack Hanna talking to Wallenda.
"He's just a close friend. He's just a lovely man that I spend time with his family, and he spends time with my family," Wallenda told Patch. "It's always nice to have someone like that around."
Oh, and Hanna "also bought tickets to Circus Sarasota," he added, prompted by Reis at his side.
After so many walks, the crowd expects Wallenda to do something unexpected himself. Call somebody, sit on the wire. Here, he knelt.
"When I knelt down, I was promoting my appearance at Circus Sarasota, that's what I was thinking," Wallenda said, prompting laughs.
The walk served as a promotion for Wallenda's Circus Sarasota show. Reis said the Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Schedule had elements starting earlier this year, meaning the circus had to adjust its schedule and thought there would be a dip in ticket sales. So who else could sell out the house?
"The only man who could help us sell tickets this year was Nik Wallenda," Pedro said.
The show runs through Friday, Feb. 15 under the Big Top across from Ed Smith Stadium.
The show includes Wallenda's family performing trademark Wallenda acts, legendary aerialist Dolly Jacobs, a juggling married couple and a ventriloquist.
For more information, visit circussarasota.org.
It's a great way to meet Wallenda, especially if you couldn't make it out to the skywalk, Reis said. Wallenda meets with the crowd and signs autographs after each show.
Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell also congratulated Wallenda after his walk, praising his work to help promote the city.
"Nik is a true son of Sarasota," Atwell said.
And that true son, is always working on his next walk. Not only will he appear on morning television soon to announce a date for his 5,000-foot long walk across the Grand Canyon, but he said he will plan another wire walk in Sarasota soon.
The Wallendas are also set to be the featured act at Mixon Fruit Farms' annual Orange Blossom Festival in Bradenton in March. The Wallendas are scheduled to offer three performances over two days, March 2 and March 3.
Until then, catch Nik at the circus.
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