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Walking the Tightrope Again

NIAGRA FALLS, N.Y. — ABC is turning Nik Wallenda’s attempted tightrope walk over Niagara Falls into a prime-time television event next month, devoting a full three hours to the daredevil’s June 15 walk.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the famous daredevil family the Great Wallendas, also known as the Flying Wallendas, whose history as a traveling circus troupe dates to 1780.

“It’s a return to some of the great events you’ve seen on television over the years,” ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said. “I think back to my own childhood and Evel Knievel where literally the whole country would gather around the set and watch one of these extraordinary stunts.”

Wallenda said he’s adamantly opposed to tethering himself to the 2-inch wire to remove the life-or-death element.

“It’s family history. This is what we do,” Wallenda said Friday, a day before starting daily sessions on a practice wire outside the Seneca Niagara Casino. “I feel like that’s taking away from it. I feel like I’m cheating at that point.”

He said he’s trained to grab the wire if there’s trouble.

Part of the three television hours will be an examination of the greatest stunts of all time, with the live walk between the New York and Canada shores expected to take about 30-40 minutes.

While Wallenda’s family history includes success across generations, it’s not been without tragedy. In 1978, his great-grandfather, Karl, fell to his death in a tightrope walk in Puerto Rico at age 73. A misstep during a signature seven-person chair pyramid killed three men in 1962 in Detroit.

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