Wallenda to walk over Inner Harbor

Believe it or not, a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallenda family plans to walk a high wire above Baltimore's Inner Harbor on May 9.

Nik Wallenda's feat will promote the opening next month of a new Ripley's Believe It or Not "odditorium" in Harborplace's Light Street Pavilion. It's also a tip of the hat to a similar wire act by his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, who walked between two cranes above the harbor in 1973 to open the fourth annual City Fair.

"When I was approached about this, I was so excited because of just that," the 33-year-old Wallenda said. "I've re-enacted many of his walks, even the one where he fell to his death."

The elder Wallenda died in 1978 when he fell from a wire strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He had brought global renown to the family, which traces its roots to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where members performed as acrobats, jugglers and other circus acts.

The younger Wallenda, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., is slated to walk over the harbor on a wire from the odditorium site to a 100-foot crane mounted on a barge moored in the harbor some 300 feet away. And, he'll do it without a net or other safety device.

The five-time Guinness World Record holder is enough of a daredevil to be unconcerned that the harbor is polluted with disease-causing bacteria that makes it unsafe for swimming.

"I've trained my whole life to stay on the wire," Wallenda said. "I don't train to fall. That never even crosses my mind."

The Baltimore walk will be his final performance before he takes an even bigger stroll on June 15: over Niagara Falls. That stunt required much lobbying and rules changes in the United States and Canada.

The Ripley's odditorium, scheduled to open the first week of June, is part of a group of new tenants lined up for the summer tourist season. The exhibits will include a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle made of 600,000 wooden matchsticks, a Mini Cooper covered in more than a million Swarovski crystals and a salute to Johnny Eck, Baltimore's own sideshow star.

Wallenda is scheduled to start his 15- to 20-minute walk at 5:15 p.m.


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