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Arts and Entertainment Friday, Mar. 9, 2012 8 years ago

Experience Center Ring Saturday with High Wire Daredevil Nik Wallenda

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by: Jessi Smith

World record-holding daredevil and acrobat extraordinaire Nik Wallenda may be busy preparing for his highly-anticipated tightrope walk across Niagara Falls this summer---but he’s not too busy to take part in a fun, family-oriented program right here in his hometown.

The seventh-generation member of the famous circus stunt-performing family The Flying Wallendas is paying a special visit to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art this weekend for Center Ring Saturday.

Developed by the museum in partnership with Circus Sarasota, Center Ring Saturday takes place from 12 to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month at the Ringling Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center. During each event, participating youth and their families have the opportunity to sneak a behind-the-scenes look at circus culture and learn the ins and outs of the biz.

Past Center Ring Saturdays have featured circus pros such as Circus Ringmaster Joe Bauer, professional clowns Karen Bell and Robin Eurich and aerialist Dolly Jacobs. In addition to shedding light on the art, science and skills of circus performing, guests of honor at Center Ring Saturday inspire art activities for kids and families to take part in with museum staff during the two-hour event.

Tomorrow Wallenda will tell audiences about the death-defying treks he’s taken across the high wire, both by foot and on bicycle. In 2008, for instance, Wallenda set the world records for longest distance and greatest height traveled by bicycle when he crossed a wire that was suspended 128 feet above the street from the roof of Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Building.

Wallenda wowed the audience during his last big appearance in Sarasota in 2010, when he walked the 600-foot distance between One Watergate and The Ritz Carlton to celebrate the opening of Circus Sarasota.

In addition to discussing life on the high wire and his past performances, Wallenda will shed light on his upcoming feats, such as the walk he will take from the United States to Canada suspended 60 to 70 feet above Niagara Falls this summer.

On Feb. 15, the Niagara Parks Commission voted unanimously to approve Wallenda’s request for permission to walk the 1,800 foot distance across Niagara Falls on a high wire. Wallenda will be the first person in history to cross the falls themselves, although several daredevils made the tightrope walk across the gorge during the height of popularity for acrobatic stunt performances in the 1800’s. However, no high wire antics have taken place at Niagara in over a century.

Following Wallenda’s talk, guests at Center Ring Saturday will have the opportunity to explore the newly-expanded Tibbals Learning Center and simulate a walk on the high wire themselves through a kid-oriented craft project in which artists can create their own aerialist action figures with items such as straws and clothes pins.

The event, which is free with the purchase of museum admission, will take place in the circus museum’s backyard. For information on museum hours and admission prices, visit www.ringling.org.

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