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Sunday, June 23, 2013

German-American Spotlight: Nik Wallenda

In honor of the Skywire walk tonight, I'm doing a special German-American spotlight post on Nik Wallenda.

Tonight, Nik will be the first person ever to walk on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. It's being aired live on Discovery Channel and you know I found a TV with cable to watch it. Beyond all the weather and technical details, the walk is 1/4 mile long across a part of the canyon 1,500 ft deep. I'm so excited to watch and so excited for him to accomplish this incredible feat. 

[More after the break]

I've become a bit of a fangirl since last summer when Nik was announced as one of the 2012 Grand Marshals of the Steuben Parade in NYC (some of you know I was one of the princesses in the parade so I had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people including Nik and the other 2012 Grand Marshal Norbert Schramm). 

Nik Wallenda Steuben Parade
Nik being "pinned" at the Gala where I first met him

I admittedly knew next to nothing about him when I first heard he would be a Grand Marshal. I did my research and was amazed by his story. When I met him at the Gala the night before the parade, I was so impressed and tongue-tied. I'm kicking myself now for not getting an autograph. At least there are pictures!

Nik Wallenda Steuben Parade
The court with both Grand Marshals

His story starts long before he was born. He is a descendant of the Flying Wallendas, a family famous for over 200 years for their daredevil stunts. One of the most impressive acts of the troupe is the 7 man pyramid done on a tightrope.

The Wallendas started performing in 1870 as a travelling act through Europe.  Nik's great-grandfather was born in Magdeburg, Germany (the German-American connection!) in 1905 and performed starting from the age of 6.  He built up his act, marrying a fellow performer (Nik followed in his footsteps marrying aerial performer Erendira Wallenda) and the family group soon came to the USA and was headlining for Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus.  

The family has continued the tradition, enduring tragedies along the way including Nik's great-grandfather, Karl, falling to his death from the high wire on a walk in Puerto Rico in 1978 at age 73. Nik repeated this walk with his mother in June 2011, crossing the spot where Karl fell to honor his memory. 

Nik Wallenda Puerto Rico
Nik stepping over his mother to the spot where his great-grandfather fell (from

There is so much to say about the many feats he's done since the start of his career at age 13: from his many walks, to riding across a high wire on a motorcycle, to the "wheel of death", to hanging from his teeth from a helicopter, to his 2012 walk across Niagara Falls...and more. He has done so many amazing feats that I could not do them justice from one blog post (which I edited since my original post from my phone). 

He's an inspiration to me not only as a German-American, but also as a Christian. He prays before every walk with his family (who he clearly loves - from his wife and 3 children to his ancestors). He puts his full faith in God, something so hard to do with less frightening and awesome experiences. 

The walk is about to start and I'm going crazy with anticipation!

Update: Links added above and below.  Watch the walk if you can - I still can't watch without getting nervous and I know how it turns out!

Also, I've got to put a plug for his new biography "Balance".  I was already super-excited to read it, but the Amazon reviews make it look even better.

Nik Wallenda Steuben Parade
Getting ready to start off the 2012 Steuben Parade (From Friedrich Willhelm von Steuben's Facebook page)

Update: He did it!! First person to ever cross the Grand Canyon on a wire. What a feat!

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