POLITICS

Wallenda's dad says son is 'thrilled' to carry on family wire walking tradition

06/14/2012 05:43 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - When Nik Wallenda steps out onto a cable Friday night, balanced 60 metres above the churning foot of Niagara Falls, he won't be alone.

He'll have his father acting as both a calming presence and a technical advisor, talking to him through an ear piece, and he will also carry with him the legacy of all seven generations of daredevil Wallendas.

Wallenda, 33, comes from a long line of aerialists as a member of the Flying Wallenda family, and has big — though nimble — shoes to fill.

But it won't be an added burden to Wallenda as he attempts to be the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope Friday, his father said.

"I don't think it's a lot of pressure, I think for him it's a lot of pleasure," Terry Troffer said in an interview. "He's just thrilled that he can carry on the family tradition."

During Wallenda's crossing Troffer will be in a control room filled with producers and directors managing the live television special and will have a direct line to his son.

Troffer, himself an accomplished wire walker, will be talking to Wallenda through an ear piece his son will wear, talking him through the wet and windy conditions that are likely to arise.

"I would just be there as a calming voice in the event that he were to feel overwhelmed with several different things coming at him all at once,'" Troffer said.

"Just fatherly advice that any father would give to their son who walks across Niagara Falls," he deadpanned.

Wallenda's walk, set for 10:20 p.m. ET will be broadcast live on ABC, with CTV carrying it in Canada.

The American broadcaster is partly funding Wallenda's walk, which Wallenda estimates is around $1.3 million with fabrication and installation of the custom-made steel wire, permits and security on both sides of the border, travel and marketing.

But ABC also requested he wear a tether in case something goes wrong. It's not to Wallenda's liking.

"If anything it makes me nervous to wear a tether," he said at a press conference this week.

"Never in my life have I worn a tether (during a stunt) so it's just an added thing on my mind."

Wallenda says in his mind the tether won't even be there.

"It will follow along and trail behind me," he said. "In no way does that harness keep me on the wire whatsoever. The only thing it does is guarantee I cannot plummet to my death."

While the "only thing" ensuring Wallenda won't die on live television attracts his scorn, the death of famed Wallenda patriarch Karl Wallenda hangs over the family.

He died in 1978 while performing a wire-walking stunt in Puerto Rico. The family says misconnected wires caused him to fall and plunge to his death.

"Having the privilege of knowing Karl myself and working for him I knew that one of his priorities was keeping the family name going and Nik is just fulfilling that to the greatest extent," Troffer said.

As a teenager in Sarasota, Fla., Troffer got involved with a local circus school and heard that Karl Wallenda was hiring boys to erect and dismantle circus equipment.

Troffer called him up, got a job, ended up walking wires and marrying Karl Wallenda's daughter. He performed for 36 years and is excited now to be his son's support.

"I had never undertaken such monumental crossings as Nik has," Troffer said.

"He's a very driven and very talented individual. He's just showing up his dad, is basically what it is," he said with a chuckle.

The Niagara Falls Parks Commission expects 120,000 people to gather on the Ontario side of the falls when Wallenda attempts his walk.

— With a report from The Associated Press