Oh What A Night!

June 17, 2012 Updated Nov 3, 2013 at 5:37 AM EDT

By WKBW News


Oh What A Night!

June 17, 2012 Updated Nov 3, 2013 at 5:37 AM EDT

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (ABC NEWS/ WKBW ) Daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a high wire Friday night June 15, 2012.

"Over a billion people by Monday will have known the story of Nik Wallenda over Niagara Falls," Tim Clark, of the Buffalo-Niagara Film Board, told ABC News affiliate WKBW, "and I think that's just fantastic reinforcement for our tourism industry here in western New York."

New York State Senator George Maziarz, who was instrumental in pulling together what was needed to approve the event, told Eyewitness News Saturday that the crowds that were attracted to the Falls were incredible.

"There were many businesses who told me what they made Friday night was more than their entire holiday season combined," Maziarz commented to WKBW.

The publicity generated from the event is worth billions.

Tens of thousands of people gathered at the falls Friday night and millions more were believed to be watching on television as Wallenda crossed some 200 feet in the air on a two-inch-wide wire strung over the raging waters of Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three falls that make up Niagara Falls.

Wallenda trotted in his final steps across the wire and stepped into Canada, barely 25 minutes after he started.

After he greeted his wife and family, Wallenda was approached by customs agents, who asked him for his passport, which he presented.

"No, I'm not carrying anything over. I promise," he said.

"What is the purpose of your trip sir?" the agent asked.

"To inspire people around the world," Wallenda said.

Wallenda said the mist and the winds midway across the walk were the biggest challenge.

"It's all about the concentration, the focus, and it all goes back to the training," he said.

"I'm grinning from ear to ear because I can see I'm here. I made it," he added.

The Niagara Falls Ontario Parks Commission issued a release stating the walk paid tribute to the Niagara’s daredevil tradition while showcasing the national treasure of the Falls and Niagara Parks

"With his high wire walk across the Niagara Gorge, Nik Wallenda has helped showcase Niagara Parks and remind people around the world of the many reasons to visit, according to Janice Thomson, Chair of The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC).

“The Commission congratulates Mr. Wallenda on a thrilling performance. It captured the imagination of millions and allowed Niagara Parks to showcase its beauty and put our national treasure – The Falls – on display for the entire world to see,” Thomson said.

In tonight’s walk, Wallenda became the first person in more than 100 years to cross the Niagara Gorge on a high wire and the first person ever to walk across on a wire so close to the Horseshoe Falls. Part of the walk was over the Horseshoe Falls itself. Wirewalkers in the past have performed downstream from the Falls.

More than 80 accredited media agencies from the United States, China, Australia, and other countries as well as Canada covered the walk from Niagara Parks. The walk was carried live by the ABC and CTV Television networks.

In addition to covering the walk itself, international media took the opportunity to talk about the authentic Parks’ experience while visiting NPC, including its natural attractions such as the Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, and the Whirlpool Aero Car. Media also had the opportunity to experience the Parks unique natural environment, gardens and horticultural displays, as well as several War of 1812 historical sites, on this the eve of the Bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812.

In 2012, NPC gave approval to a request by professional tightrope walker Nik Wallenda to cross the Niagara Gorge on a wire. This one-time permission was made in part to recognize the role that daredevil performances and stunting have played in the rich history and promotion of Niagara Falls.

At the same time, the Commission has taken steps to ensure that such feats will not come at the expense of public safety and protecting the natural and cultural heritage that millions of visitors every year enjoy on the Canadian side of the river. Under the motion approved by the Commission, examination of a proposal submitted by a stunting professional will be considered no more than once in a generation, or approximately every 20 years, as a way to pay tribute to the stunting history.

The establishment of The Niagara Parks Commission and the focus on the natural wonder of the Falls, has been a catalyst for the growth of Niagara Falls as a global tourism destination.

Others have crossed the Niagara River itself, but never over the falls. Wallenda said that Friday night's feat was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream as well as a chance to honor his great-grandfather, legendary funambilist Karl Wallenda, who died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978.

Wallenda, 33, has called his great-grandfather his "biggest inspiration" and said he was thinking of him during the stunt. The 1,500-foot walk between Goat Island in the U.S. side to Table Rock in Canada was fraught with unforgiving natural conditions: blinding mist and drafts created by the force of the waterfalls crashing down on the Niagara River.

Those obstacles notwithstanding, Wallenda told reporters Thursday that he hopes the walk will be "peaceful and relaxing."

"Often, I'm very relaxed when I'm walking on a cable like that," he said, but he added that the historic nature of the event could also mean "there'll be some tears involved."

Preparing for the walk took months. In addition to actually practicing for the walk, Wallenda had to secure permission from both U.S. and Canadian authorities. On the Canadian side, giving Wallenda the go-ahead meant granting a one-time exemption on a 128-year ban on stunts. Wallenda's team also had to devise and implement measures to steady the wire and guarantee that, should Wallenda stumble, safety equipment would keep him from plunging down into the gorge.

Friday's event is expected to bring a major boost to tourism in the Niagara Falls region, which sees 13 million visitors at the falls each year.

"Over a billion people by Monday will have known the story of Nik Wallenda over Niagara Falls," Tim Clark, of the Buffalo-Niagara Film Board, told ABC News affiliate WKBW, "and I think that's just fantastic reinforcement for our tourism industry here in western New York."

As for Wallenda's next megastunt, he already has the permits to become the first man to ever walk a wire across the Grand Canyon.