Internationally known highwire act to perform at chamber’s Cityfest

Fans of all ages, introducing the one and only Flying Wallendas in their first-ever performance on a high wire on Anna Maria Island.

The group will be performing its famous highwire act for the first time at Cityfest in Holmes Beach.

The Wallendas will perform three, 30-minute, highwire shows during Island Cityfest at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Rick Wallenda told Holmes Beach city commissioners at their Feb. 11 meeting that he and four or five of his family members will walk across 125 feet of wire, 30 feet above the ground without a safety net. The performance will take place over the baseball diamond at Birdie Tebbetts Field at the north end of the city field.

“This is our fifth year for our founder’s day festival and we wanted to juice it up,” said Mary Ann Brockman, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. “We also wanted to make it more family friendly.”

The city commission approved the chamber’s permit for the performance, which came with a $5 million public liability insurance policy and $500 deposit from the chamber.

Wallenda asked if any commissioners would like to ride on his shoulders during the performance, and laughed when a look of terror fell over their faces.

“Do you want us to approve this or not?” Commission Chair Judy Titsworth asked.

The Wallenda dynasty of circus performers started in the 1700s, according to their website. The patriarch, Karl Wallenda, started performing in his family’s circus at age six in 1905. He began his own tightrope act in Europe during the 1920s, when U.S. circus tycoon John Ringling discovered him.

Ringling signed the Wallendas to his Ringling Barnum and Bailey Circus tour in 1928, and they debuted in Madison Square Gardens in New York City. As legend has it, their safety net became lost and they were forced to do the show without it, receiving a 15-minute long, standing ovation at the successful conclusion.

From then on, the Wallendas did their stunts without a safety net, headlining for the circus for more than two decades.

Although, during a performance in Akron Ohio, all four members fell, they landed uninjured. The following day, a newspaper coined the term “Flying Wallendas,” saying that the family had fallen “so gracefully that it seemed as if they were flying.”

Today the performing Wallendas are mostly Karl’s grandchildren.

“We are very excited to have the Wallendas perform at Cityfest,” Brockman said. “This is a great addition to our annual celebration.

The Islander newspaper is a five-year media sponsor of Island Cityfest.

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