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Bring on the Grand Canyon: Wallenda

Joe Warmington, QMI Agency

Move over, “Great Blondin.”

A new Niagara Falls legend has emerged and his name is Nik Wallenda.

Blondin crossed the Niagara Gorge, farther down the river, on a wire in June 1859.

Wallenda did it in the shadows of the mighty Horseshoe Falls, close enough that he could, well, taste it.

“I ran (at the end) because I was excited,” he said of his historic walk. “I was very focused. The wind was not something you can train for.

“This was my favourite stunt,” Wallenda added. “This is up there with the best.

“The Grand canyon is next.”

Wallenda’s feat drew quite a crowd.

Indeed, the Niagara region hasn’t seen an invasion like this since the War of 1812.

But this time, 200 years later, the American coming across the border made it.

What an unusual event and experience.

It was designed to draw attention to Niagara Falls and that it did.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said Ashley Crisp, hospitality director at The Oakes Hotel. “We have people here from all over the world.”

The view from the Oakes and many other hotels up on the hill above the Horseshoe Falls was spectacular.

“We actually stayed here on our wedding night,” Paul Krowchuk said of he and his wife, Janet.

This time the Niagara Region couple were back with their 11-year-old daughter and celebrating a special family weekend.

“It’s history,” Janet said.

“Exciting,” Paul added.

Heart-in-one’s-mouth kind of exciting.

Nothing like an international walk in the mist on a moonlit night to have people holding their breath.

“See you on the other side guys,” Wallenda said before stepping out on the wire.

It has been more than a century since anyone has done it, so this was one rare spectacle that no one alive before Friday night can boast witnessing.

“We just had to be here,” Melba Sorrano said of why she and sister Maripaz came in for the weekend from Mississauga. “He’s such a nice kid.”

Joanne Davies and Kristine Audette said that if the plan was to have them come to the Falls to shop and go to the casino, it worked.

Gwen Fisher and Linda Blais decided not to buy a ticket to watch from a tower but find a spot with the crowd to get a good look.

“It’s great value and great for Niagara Falls,” Davies said.

Still, the crowd didn’t seem quite as large as expected.

The question of the special safety harness that ABC TV made Wallenda wear played a role in that.

“It doesn’t take anything away from his effort, but it’s not really a daredevil feat,” said Melissa Freake. “I can tell you I would give it a shot if they let me wear that tether.”

Watching from his room at the Hilton Hotel, from where he’ll do 90 walks this summer to the Skylon Tower, Canadian Jay Cochrane said he was impressed Wallenda managed the walk tethered.

“It’s not easy to have something like that added to a walk,” he said. “If it’s something you train with fine, but not something added on.”

Showing great class — having been promised that, one day, he’d be the first to have the opportunity to walk the Falls — he said Wallenda’s accomplishment was huge.

“There are a lot of ramifications to it — the thunder of the water, the mist, the lights,” he said. “There is nothing easy about it.”

But Wallenda showed it can be done.