NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — The fifth-grader's question succinctly summarized what students and adults were probably thinking: "I'm not trying to be rude but, are you crazy?"
The question was posed to daredevil Nik Wallenda outside Kalfas Magnet School as he described his plans to walk over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. An hour earlier, the seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallendas stood at the water's edge to reveal June 15 as the date he would attempt what he called "the walk of a lifetime."
"It's something I have passion for and that I love to do," Wallenda told the boy and his classmates as they peppered him with questions about his "chances of making it" and whether he was scared.
"I've been walking on the ground only a year longer than I've been walking on the wire," said Wallenda, whose first tightrope walk at age 2 continued a family tradition that began in the 1780s.
His 1,800-foot walk on a two-inch cable will merge the Flying Wallendas family history with the colorful daredevil folklore of Niagara Falls that dates back more than 150 years, when the "Great Blondin" made regular high-wire trips across the Niagara River gorge, downstream of the falls.
Wallenda would be the first to walk above the falls themselves.
"I pinch myself all the time," said Wallenda, who said the walk has been his dream since he first visited the natural wonder with his parents as a 6-year-old. "It doesn't feel like reality."
It took an act of New York's Legislature and persistent lobbying of Canadian officials to make the attempt possible. New York and Ontario law prohibit stunting at Niagara Falls but a single exception was made for Wallenda as a way to pay tribute to the daredevil past while boosting tourism now.
Wallenda signed final agreements in both countries Tuesday afternoon.
While the June 15 date doesn't give tourism officials as much time as they'd hoped to promote it, many were confident the walk would put Niagara Falls in the minds of travelers well after it ends.
"You cross two brands like Niagara Falls and Nik Wallenda and it's like a chemical reaction, creating worldwide attention," said Roger Trevino, a Niagara Falls developer, who watched as Wallenda described his plans.
"Just think," said state Sen. George Maziarz, who sponsored the New York legislation, "the next day, every newspaper in the world is going to have a picture of Nik Wallenda on that tightrope in front of Niagara Falls."
Wallenda's school visit kicked off what he said will be regular talks to students about the importance of setting goals, staying healthy and relentlessly pursuing dreams. He'll begin outdoor training sessions May 12, working on a practice wire at the Seneca Niagara Casino amid machine-generated wind and mist simulating what he'll encounter during the real thing. Visitors will be able to watch for free.
Wallenda's walk, likely to take place in early evening, will take 30 to 40 minutes. Whether he goes from New York to Canada or the other direction will depend on the weather. He's trying to work out a television deal with an undisclosed network to broadcast the event live.
- Nik Wallenda
- NIAGARA FALLS