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Nik Wallenda plans power walk

In his latest death-defying stunt, Nik Wallenda will traverse Longboat Key's power lines to celebrate the March referendum.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. March 30, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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APRIL FOOLS' — What do Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Chicago skyscrapers and Longboat Key power poles have in common? Soon, Nik Wallenda will have defied death by crossing them all.

Wallenda, a Sarasota native known for his dangerous stunts and high-wire performances who holds nine Guinness World Records, will defy death again April 1, by walking Longboat Key's power lines in Country Club Shores to celebrate voters' approval of a second underground utilities referendum that will eventually result in no above-ground utilities on the Key.

It's part of the town's "Strip the Poles" celebration that will culminate in a party at Bayfront Park Recreation Center after the walk. (See sidebar.)

“Growing up in Sarasota, I always loved visiting Longboat, but those power poles are such an eye sore,” Wallenda said. “I can’t believe it took this long for undergrounding to be approved. Now, visitors can focus on the beautiful scenery the town offers, not the ugly power lines. I wanted to do this walk to honor this vote.”

Although voters approved the project March 15, Wallenda has been planning the stunt for months, having vowed in 2015 to walk the lines even if voters rejected the referendum as a protest.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind, this desire to walk across those power lines,” Wallenda said. “When I heard residents were voting whether to take them down, I knew now was the time.”

Wallenda has drawn attention over the last week as he practiced for the stunt.

"People have been chanting, 'No more power lines,'" he said.

Power on the Key will be shut off from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to ensure the safety of Wallenda, and he said residents were supportive of his walk.

Wallenda’s favorite part of the walk has been avoiding the traffic below.

“I was moving faster than any car on the road, and I have to move very slowly and deliberately,” he said.

If he survives Friday's walk, Wallenda will begin to prepare for a tightrope walk over the eroded beaches on the south end of Longboat Key.

Despite the inherent risk of the walk, Wallenda isn't scarred. 

"I've stared death in the face before," Wallenda told the Longboat Observer. "I put one foot in front of the other, focused and prayed I would make it across to my family at the other side. But as you can see, I survived the Longboat Key crosswalk. There's nothing that can stop me."