Karl Wallenda's great-grandson Nikolas carries on in the family business
Back in 1928, John Ringling hired the innovative wire-walker Karl Wallenda and his family troupe, the Great Wallendas, for his circus. Later known as the Flying Wallendas, they became the best-known circus family in the world.
The current edition of Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is carrying on that family tradition with Karl Wallenda's great grandson, Nikolas Wallenda. A seventh-generation circus performer, Wallenda is joined by his wife Erendira Wallenda in the show, an eighth-generation circus performer from the Flying Vasquez family of trapeze artists.
In a phone conversation with AC Weekly that was briefly interrupted by one of his three children, Nikolas Wallenda talked about his act and what it's like to grow up in the circus.
Could you describe the Space Wheel and what you do in the show?
The Space Wheel is a giant hamster wheel. Bella Nock and I do all sorts of somersaults and tricks about 35 feet up. When you are on a high wire you are more in control. When you are on a wheel that spins, the wheel is a little more in control.
What is the sway pole?
It's a flagpole that goes up about 70 feet and sways back and forth. We climb up to the top of it and do handstands and all sorts of other super tricks and eventually switch poles.
You do this without a net. I understand that the reason the Great Wallendas opened with Ringing Bros. without a net was because it was lost in transit, thus establishing what made them so famous.
What's it like growing up in a circus family?
It's great. I don't know what it would be like not to grow up in a circus family. I have three kids (sons Yanni, Amadaos and daughter Evita). Growing up I was always with my parents. Our children are with us all the time.
Growing up, some of us might have a swing in the backyard, but you have a low-wire set up?
Their playground in the backyard is circus equipment. My son, who is almost six, he loves walking in the wheel.
I guess it would be almost impossible for them not to go into the family business, and they have performed in your shows at water parks?
The event that’s truly capable of turning a septagenarian into a wide-eyed toddler, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, starts a five-show performance at Boardwalk Hall tonight — Thursday, April 18 — and remains in town through Sunday afternoon, April 21
Nik Wallenda admitted he was worried as he inched his way across the thin steel wire that spanned two countries.
On June 25, daredevil Nik Wallenda traversed a two-inch wire across countries on June 25, becoming the first person to ever walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
Children of all ages — meaning toddlers to octogenarians and beyond — will welcome “The Greatest Show on Earth” back to Atlantic City for a four-day, five-show stay at Boardwalk Hall this Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22.
The circus will be at the Atlantic City Race Course Aug. 3-5 and in Rio Grande at the Robert Wisting Recreation Complex (Cape May County) Aug. 10-11.
Wallenda told the media that it will be several weeks before a ruling by Guinness World Records Ltd. "on whether his outdoor stunt qualifies for the world record for performing the stunt off the side of a building."
"The objection I have about New Age is its implication ... that you have to have incense and some crystals, you know. I don’t blame people for trying to give [it] a name, because I can’t even give a name to my music. I just call it music.”
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