Nik Wallenda to walk tightrope blindfolded 50 stories above Chicago

Michelle Gallardo Image
Friday, October 3, 2014
Nik Wallenda to walk tightrope over Chicago River
Often described as the "King of the Wire," daredevil acrobat Nik Wallenda is at it again ? this time planning a tightrope walk 50 stories over the Chicago River.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nik Wallenda has announced that he is planning to walk a portion of the tightrope walk over the Chicago skyline wearing a blindfold next month.

"I'm always pushing myself both physically and emotionally. I hope to inspire people around the world and show that the impossible is not so impossible if you set your mind to it," said the 35-year-old Wallenda. "This has been a dream of mine and something that I've been practicing for awhile."

For the first part of the tightrope crossing Nov. 2, Wallenda will walk farther than two city blocks, uphill, rising to a 15-degree angle, from the iconic Marina City's west tower to the Leo Burnett Building at more than 50 stories high above the Chicago River. Not only will this be the highest skyscraper walk in the history of the Flying Wallenda family, it will be the first time that he has ever attempted it at such a steep angle.

Nik will then be blindfolded for the second part of the tightrope walk, which will span from the Marina City's west tower to the east tower. Dozens of cameras will be positioned across the city and on helicopters - capturing every step as Wallenda attempts to cross one of the windiest sections of Chicago.

"For both parts of the tightrope walk, I'm going to face challenges like I've never experienced before," Wallenda said.

Wallenda said he originally wanted to walk up to the Willis Tower, but unfortunately there was no good building to walk from. Once he settled on the iconic Marina City buildings, his eye landed on the rooftop of Leo Burnett.

"I love this city. My sister lived here for almost 13 years. And I've spent a lot of time with her," Wallenda said. "I performed for three months at the Goodman Theatre, and that's when I had that vision. Hey, I want to do something big in this city."

"It's all about the challenge. Winds are always a challenge. They're a wire walker's worst enemy. It's always one element I can't control," he said.

Wallenda's adventures span the globe. In 2013, he successfully crossed the Grand Canyon. In Chicago, it will be about setting everything up as to not disturb the regular flow of traffic. There is also the matter of a state law that prohibits aerial performances without a net. Wallenda is not worried.

"For Niagara Falls, we had to change a law in the United States and legislation that was over 100 years old that eventually Governor Cuomo signed which, in effect, allowed me to do that," Wallenda said.

And while walking along a tightrope the size of a quarter may not be everyone's cup of tea, for Wallenda, it's a way of life.

"I live by three words. They're 'never give up,'" he said. "Hopefully it's inspirational to others. That whatever their dreams are that they'll pursue them and whatever the challenges ahead, they'll continue to push on no matter what they face."

Wallenda lives in Sarasota, Fla., so over the next several weeks he'll be using a wind tunnel to simulate Chicago conditions on Nov. 2. Adding to the drama, the stunt will be performed at night.