The Niagara Falls Walk Came After a Lengthy Legal Battle
On June 15, 2012, Wallenda became the first person to cross directly over Niagara Falls on a tightrope during a live ABC special much like the volcano special airing March 4. Wallenda had dreamed to walking across Niagara Falls since he was a child, but once he was approached to actually do it, it took two years to make it happen because there was a lot of red tape on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
Developer Roger Trevino approached Wallenda about it in 2010 and then New York state Senator George Maziarz worked hard to draft legislation in Albany to get a one-time exemption for the daring stunt because there are strict laws in place about people performing stunts at Niagara Falls for safety reasons. Maziarz also worked with the government on each side of the border to get approval for Wallenda’s walk.
Trevino and Maziarz’s main argument in favor of the stunt was the amount of tourism it would bring to the area.
“The impact is immeasurable: hundreds of millions of people around the world have been reminded of Niagara Falls,” said Trevino at a press conference at the time. “Some of these, even if they do not come to see Wallenda on June 15, will unquestionably be planning vacations in the future and might very well plan Niagara Falls into their future.”
And while it is true that there was a lot of free publicity for Niagara Falls generated by the event, there was a legal battle even after it was over. The city of Niagara Falls, New York, said that Wallenda and his team took advantage of them and left $25,000 in unpaid overtime bills for the police officers and firefighters required to be on-site during the stunt.
According to the New York Times, Wallenda’s lawyer asserted that Wallenda’s walk had actually started in the state park and that Wallenda’s group paid $200,000 to the state of New York for putting on the event.
Eventually, the Niagara Falls City Council voted to direct the mayor to stop trying to collect the money from Wallenda (or anyone else involved), according to the Niagara Gazette. And the two parties must have mended fences because five years later, Wallenda’s wife Erendira, a renowned aerialist, performed there and the city earmarked $35,000 to help pay for Erendira’s stunt.
The Niagara Falls Stunt Was the First Time Wallenda Was Required to Wear a Safety Harness
For the Niagara Falls stunt, ABC insisted on Wallenda wearing a safety harness if they were going to broadcast the event live, which is something he had never done before on one of his big tightrope walks. But he told the Canadian National Post at the time that it didn’t “take away from the event,” which was still “an amazing spectacle.”
He further told ABC News that the harness didn’t help his balance in any way.
“The way the harness works is it is attached to my waist and then there’s a cable that goes down to the wire and a trolley of sorts that follows me. That trolley weighs about 10.2 pounds. It actually just drags along … It still grips no matter what throughout the whole process,” Wallenda said.