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Nik Wallenda wants to inspire with Good Friday tightrope walk

Wallenda will perform for his hometown of Sarasota during Good Friday in Payne Park.

Nik Wallenda walks the tightrope in March 2021 at the Nik Wallenda's Daredevil Rally at Nathan Benderson Park.
Nik Wallenda walks the tightrope in March 2021 at the Nik Wallenda's Daredevil Rally at Nathan Benderson Park.
Photo by Brendan Lavell
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Nik Wallenda is well-traveled on the high wire. 

The 11-time Guinness World Record holder and seventh-generation member of the Sarasota circus act The Flying Wallendas has performed in every U.S. state. He has walked across locations like the Grand Canyon, the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua and Times Square, typically without a safety net.

Yet Wallenda, 45, says despite those exceptional experiences, the upcoming performance at Good Friday at Payne Park, which will be held by First Sarasota – The Downtown Baptist Church on March 29, will be more than just a walk in the park.

While he tries not to compare one tightrope walk to another in terms of its intrinsic features, he also found it hard to turn down the next opportunity to perform in his home of Sarasota, when a friend and church leader invited him to do so. 

“They're all life or death," he said. "But doing it in my hometown is doing it in my hometown."

He expects that his performance will be enhanced by being in front of friends and family. 

At the same time, he noted that while people may believe a walk over the Grand Canyon is more dangerous than other walks, he has lost family members who fell from 30 feet, and others who fell from 100 feet.

Wallenda said his grandfather Karl Wallenda was undertaking a walk that was relatively “minuscule” in comparison to many of his others when he lost his life in 1978, walking between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico.

Nik Wallenda
Courtesy image

When Nik Wallenda steps onto the tightrope, however, for him it isn't about feeling fear or an adrenaline rush. 

On the contrary, it’s an escape from the worries of everyday life. 

He has walked on the tightrope since he was 18 months old and traces his family's performances back to the 1780s.

“I do it because it’s in my blood," he said. "My grandfather said life is on the wire. Everything else is just waiting. That's why I get on the wire. That's life. That is freedom. When I get on the wire, all my troubles go away.”

Although at first, Wallenda did not understand the impact his performances created on other people, he began to change the way he thought of his acts, as he heard testimonials from audience members.

Today, he performs with a focus on inspiring others to believe that nothing is impossible. 

He notes that the qualities needed to walk the tightrope are endurance, training, skill, lots of practice and “nerves of steel," and says if he can make it from one point to another on a rope no wider than a nickel, others will be inspired to make it through their own life challenges.

“I love entertaining and performing and inspiring, and to do it in my hometown is always exciting and an honor, and I have such an incredible support system with my hometown. And to do it downtown at Payne Park — there are so many special things about it," he said. 

Adding to the event's important qualities for him is that it is being held on Good Friday. 

“I believe that our ultimate hope is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that is where I find my purpose,” he said. 

Wallenda said he is eager to meet the members of the public who come out to the event, which also features other offerings such as face painting and a helicopter Easter egg drop. 

The event is the first such event held by First Sarasota. 

“For over a century, our church has been sharing Jesus in our beautiful city and beyond," said Senior Pastor Dr. John Cross in a media release. "As our team was dreaming and planning Easter weekend, someone mentioned that it would be great to have a Good Friday gathering in beautiful Payne Park. Easter's message of God's love is truly Good News, and we're committed to sharing it with as many as possible.”

Wallenda hopes his role in the day's celebrations will create more than just thrills.

“It's not about the round of applause, or the standing ovation or the people screaming. It's about that one message, that one email that I get in my inbox the next day or that evening of, 'Thank you.'”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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