Ever since I was a little girl, my mother would tell us one of her favorite childhood stories. While vacationing in the Adirondacks in 1963, my grandparents took their children to The Enchanted Forest theme park to see The Flying Wallendas. After performing, as my mom says, “they wanted me on their laps for a picture!” I’m sure they invited all their fans to do this and she wasn’t just hand-picked from the crowd, but I’ll let her have her moment. So there sits my four-year-old mother, in the laps of arguably the most famous and talented circus family in the world, grinning from ear to ear. Flash forward almost 50 years and there sits my mother, my brother and I covering our gaping mouths while holding our bated breath as we watch Nik Wallenda crossing the mighty Niagara Falls on 2-inch thick steel wire.
Over 112,000 people descended onto the grounds of Niagara Falls as Wallenda made his 26 minute, 1,800 foot journey from Terrapin Point to Table Rock. Along with media from China, Korea, Germany, Great Britain, France and Australia, WBFO 88.7/WNED-AM 970’s Daniel Robison and Chris Caya provided live reports and play-by-play coverage. Our own Eileen Elibol also joined on-air and provided amazing photographs of the daredevil’s feat.
I had the chance to sit down with Daniel and talk about his experience reporting Wallenda’s walk. Not only was the event a test of endurance for Wallenda, but it was also a test of endurance for our reporters who had arrived at 9 a.m. “I was filing throughout the day and running between the city and Terrapin Point. I probably made that trip at least three times throughout the day, but it was amazing that they had six weeks to pull it together. The event really did reach beyond the area; the amount of international appeal was pretty neat.”
I asked Daniel what it was like to actually be there, watching Wallenda start his journey. “It was really cool to see the camera flashes through the mist and then he just became this speck, but I was talking to lots of people, trying to get their comments and reporting while the actual walk was going on. Every moment counted and I had to stay focused.”
He definitely did have to stay focused as he wrote long and short pieces while sitting in traffic. Daniel’s story “Daredevil High-Wired For Success Over Niagara Falls” had a 4 a.m. deadline for its Weekend Edition Saturday broadcast on NPR.
“You know, the Falls looked amazing and they went a long way to get people here,” said Daniel. “I see this as an instigator to continue to get people to this region. They needed a big event like this to draw lumps of people, to generate buzz and to get people to visit the other days of the year.”
Were you at Terrapin Point or Table Rock as Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a high-wire? Did you watch at home? Feel free to comment below!