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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 10 years ago

Wallenda stunt ready for takeoff

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Downtown Sarasota office dwellers, residents and pedestrians better look up this Thursday. Circus Sarasota headliner and Guinness World Record holder Nik Wallenda will walk 600 feet across a high-wire strung between the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota and One Watergate Condominium.

The walk is scheduled to happen around 9 a.m. Feb. 4, near the intersection of North Tamiami Trail and Ringling Boulevard. People are being encouraged to watch the stunt from parking lots surrounding the Ritz.

Like last year’s downtown spectacle, in which daredevil clown Bello Nock ascended a 92-foot sway pole in Five Points Park, Wallenda’s high-wire walk is intended to drum up publicity for Circus Sarasota, which opens Friday, Feb. 12. However, according to Circus Sarasota founder and Director Pedro Reis, Wallenda’s stunt, performed 200 feet above street level, will “dwarf” last season’s sway-pole bit.

“The crazier the better,” said Reis, who received the Sarasota County Commission’s blessing in December. “We want to create an event that will get national recognition,”

In 2008, Wallenda, 31, broke the Guinness Book of World Record for the longest and highest bicycle ride on a high wire when he walked 150 feet suspended 20 stories over the streets in Newark, N.J.

After reaching the end of the wire by foot, Wallenda, a Sarasota resident, returned on a bicycle. The stunt, performed off the roof of the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, was broadcast live on “The Today Show” prompting Wallenda to perform 14 skywalks this summer, including a 1,000-foot walk across the Allegheny River.

“Pedro’s never done anything this big before,” said Wallenda, who also holds the Guinness World Record for performing an eight-person pyramid on a high wire, performed in 2001 with his family’s troupe. “I’ve known him my whole life and I’d do anything to help him out.”

Wallenda is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda, the founder of The Flying Wallendas. He lives in Sarasota full-time with his wife, Erendira, a trapeze artist, and their three children.

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