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Local tourism leaders excited about publicity Wallenda stunt will bring

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WBFO File Photo/Eileen Koteras Elibol
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The spotlight will shine on Niagara Falls Thursday morning as Erendira Wallenda, wife of high-wire walker Nik Wallenda, will perform her own stunt high above the Horseshoe Falls. Local tourism leaders are welcoming the attention, which the Wallendas say is what they'd like to bring to the Cataract City.

During a news conference Wednesday outside the Seneca Niagara Casino, where Erendira Wallenda's flight to the falls will begin, she and her husband provided additional details of Thursday morning's big stunt. They also spoke of their motivations, including inspiration for watchers and an opportunity to promote Niagara Falls through an event that amounts to millions of dollars worth of publicity, for free.

"As destination marketers, we have to put our destination first and foremost in the brains of potential visitors," said John Percy, president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. "This is just another way to do that."

Nik Wallenda said the family remains fond of the Cataract City, five years after he successfully walked along a high wire to cross over the Niagara Gorge. Erendira Wallenda's stunt, during which she'll hang from below a helicopter using her teeth, was planned to mark the anniversary of her husband's feat.

"It's my dream to see this side of the Falls flourish and (be) extremely successful," Nik Wallenda said. "And I think it should be about family. That's one of the challenges that Niagara Falls, U.S. faces right now. There's not a lot for families to do here."

Percy agreed that more family-oriented activities downtown would be attractive but he said there is not a lack of family-friendly things to do in the region.

"There may not be a lot downtown but there's a lot in Niagara County and a lot in the region that make for a wonderful four-, five-, seven-day packed agenda or itinerary for a family to enjoy here," he said. "Yes, we do need more downtown for family activities but the park is filled with family activities. So is the county. So is the entire region."

The Niagara Falls region has enjoyed an uptick in attendance over the past couple years. Percy noted that what was once a three- or four-month season now spans up to nine months or so.

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