Preparations under way for Wallenda tightrope walk

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Preparations in the Loop are underway as the city prepares for Nik Wallenda?s tightrope walk across the Chicago River. (WLS)

From Marina City's iconic towers to the rooftop of the Leo Burnett Building, preparations are well under way for Sunday's big event, when tightrope artist Nik Wallenda will attempt to cross the Chicago River.

"A friend of mine lives in that building there and she has a really great view of it," says Erin Smith. "She told me what was going to be happening so we're going to be watching from her apartment."

Wallenda has been practicing for weeks in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla. His last rehearsal was Monday. The stunt is being described as his biggest challenge yet, which is impressive considering Wallenda's previous high wire walks include Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. In Chicago, Wallenda will walk across two city blocks, uphill at a 15-degree angle between Marina City's West Tower and the Leo Burnett Building. He will then do a second walk, between Marina City's two towers--blindfolded.

"The more I look at that, the more nervous I get," says Nick Kirsch. "My stomach just drops looking at what this guy is going to do."

In addition to the live broadcast on the Discovery Channel, the city has designated two public viewing areas along the south side of the river. But those with the best view will be those living in Marina City, where residents have already signed up a total of 1,900 guests.

"A lot of people are having parties, having people over," says Ellen Chessick, president of the Marina City Condo Association. "It's great to be at the center of this, which will be seen around the world, and we have a front row seat."

And of course, what would a big media event such as this one be without merchandising? A pop-up store selling Nik Wallenda t-shirts has opened in the pedway of the Leo Burnett Building. Proceeds will go to the 100 Club of Chicago, benefiting the families of fallen first responders.

"He wants to give back to the city of Chicago," says Steven Hill. "That's why he teamed up with the charity on this event. The city has been very good to him."
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