NIAGARA FALLS – It’s been a whirlwind nine months for Nik Wallenda, with parades, television appearances and even a new book to write since his walk across Niagara Falls.
But even as he prepares for his new challenge – the Grand Canyon – the King of the High Wire hasn’t forgotten about Niagara Falls.
“I feel like a kid at Disney World every time I come back,” Wallenda said Friday. “There’s just something alluring about the falls.”
The feeling was mutual for city and state leaders who are eager to continue to build on the excitement over Wallenda’s famous high-wire walk over the falls last year.
There are plans to erect a new plaque commemorating Wallenda’s wirewalk near the brink of the falls – just one way in which Wallenda may have a permanent presence in the city that turned him into an international superstar.
The plaque – mounted at the spot where Wallenda started his 1,800-foot crossing – would include a piece of the wire on which Wallenda walked.
“This is something you don’t usually see,” Wallenda said. “Usually, long after you pass away, they put a statue up honoring something you did. I’m honored to see this coming together now.”
That may be just the beginning.
Wallenda, in town Friday to receive an award from the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, said he would love to have a permanent presence in the city he calls his “second home.”
That could start with a temporary attraction in the Falls that would feature stunt shows with the world-famous wirewalker, State Sen. George D. Maziarz said.
The Newfane Republican said he and Wallenda’s people are looking for investors who would help bring the daredevil’s large indoor tent to an unspecified area in the falls.
The air-conditioned tent would hold hundreds of tourists who would watch Wallenda perform as the main event of a circus show, similar to one he currently runs in Florida.
If the circus proved popular during the summer tourist season, Wallenda said, it could morph into a bricks-and-mortar attraction later on, with zip-lines and wirewalking.
“I think that’s something we’re seriously lacking on this side of the falls, something for families,” Wallenda said. “My family and I had a great time staying at the Seneca hotel, but the reality is there is not much to do here. You have to go over to Canada.”
That’s one place Wallenda said he won’t be taking his permanent act.
“I’m a U.S. citizen, and I want to help my country,” Wallenda said. “This is the side that clearly needs it.”
There has been talk of building an attraction around Wallenda and his death-defying acts since before he made history with his jaunt across the falls.
There has been speculation that vacant land owned by Roger Trevino, a Niagara Falls Redevelopment executive who is close with Wallenda, could be the site, but Trevino has been mum on any such prospects.
But the daredevil remained undaunted.
“I’m a never-give-up kind of guy,” Wallenda said. “I believe if it’s not this summer, then it will be next summer for sure.”
He has plenty to do before then.
Wallenda will make the Grand Canyon crossing on June 23 in front of a live audience on the Discovery Channel.
Unlike Niagara Falls, Wallenda didn’t have to convince local authorities out west to let him try this trick because the land around the canyon is owned by an Indian tribe.
While he won’t have the mist of Niagara Falls in his face, he said the winds that tear through the canyon could be just as treacherous. He’ll walk roughly the same distance across, but the height is roughly seven times that of Niagara Falls.
One more detail: Wallenda won’t be wearing a tether as he was forced to when he crossed the falls.
Despite his successful Niagara Falls stunt, he’s not taking the upcoming walk lightly.
“I try not to be egotistical in that sense,” Wallenda said. “I’ve seen experiences where people are that way and it ends up catching up with them, and I never want to end up like that.”