Sarasota daredevil Nik Wallenda crossed a high wire nearly 200 feet above the ground for a hometown crowd of thousands on Tuesday.
The walk began shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday. It took the Wallenda exactly nine minutes to make the trip from a crane positioned near the "Unconditional Surrender" statue to the Marina Tower Condominium on U.S. 41. Along the way, he carried a 42-foot-long balancing pole that weighs 45 pounds.
After the walk, Wallenda told News Channel 8 that he could hear the crowd cheering below.
"It encouraged me," Wallenda said. "I wanted to do something to entertain them. That's what I do - I'm an entertainer."
Wallenda said he had planned to do even more for the crowd by sitting down on the wire mid-way. But he was dealing with some wind and a swaying wire because of issues with guidelines to hold it steady, Wallenda said he decided to just keep moving.
Wallenda, a Sarasota native, comes from a long line of tight-rope walkers and performers. His fame increased last summer, thanks to his wire walk across Niagara Falls. During that nationally televised walk, Wallenda was required to wear a safety tether, but he did not wear one for his Sarasota walk. Wallenda says he prefers not to use any type of safety harness or tether.
The crowd of fans on the ground brought lawn chairs and binoculars to watch the hometown circus hero balance on the small cable about the size of a nickel.
"When he got up I was very nervous," said Jo Cavanaugh. "When he knelt down (on the wire) I was trembling."
Nik Wallenda is in town for a three week stay with Circus Sarasota. The Sarasota walk promoted his performance there but Wallenda said he also wanted to do something to give back to the city. With his worldwide fame, pictures of Wallenda against the Sarasota bayfront backdrop will likely be distributed around the world, promoting Sarasota as a tourist destination.
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