Daredevil Nik Wallenda is planning to walk a wire 180 feet above the ground in downtown Sarasota next week, without any safety harness or tether.
The walk will be a free outdoor show as Wallenda launches a three-week run at Circus Sarasota. City leaders are also hoping to showcase Sarasota scenery as a backdrop to Wallenda's stunt.
"I wanted to do something for my hometown," Wallenda said. "My hometown has been so supportive of me."
Wallenda, a Sarasota native, comes from the famous circus family that included his great grandfather Karl Wallenda, who fell to his death during a performance in Puerto Rico in 1978.
On Tuesday, Wallenda plans to walk a wire from a crane near the city's Unconditional Surrender statue of the sailor and the nurse on Sarasota's bayfront, across the street to Marina Tower, landing on someone's balcony.
City officials signed off at a meeting this week, but the Florida Department of Transportation still needs to approve the plan to shut down U.S. 41 during the stunt in order for it to go forward. The performance is scheduled to start at 10:30 am.
Unlike Wallenda's highly publicized walk across Niagara Falls last summer, this walk is planned without a safety tether that could catch Wallenda if he stumbles. Wallenda says his contract for the live televised Niagara Falls walk required him to wear one, but he has made it clear he prefers to work without one.
City officials gave him a green light for the walk without the safety line, going against a staff recommendation on the issue.
"He is the legacy of the Wallenda family," said Mayor Suzanne Atwell. "We have love for Nik.
We have passion for Nik. We have faith in Nik and trust in Nik."
Wallenda said he would have found another spot over private property – rather than over public land on the bayfront – if city officials required a tether.
Although he is outspoken about his dislike for wearing safety tethers during walks, Wallenda says he is well aware of the risks of his job.
"When you become complacent that's when something happens whether it be a gust of wind or a slip on the wire or a trip," he said "There's something that wakes you up."
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