Wallenda’s Wire Walk Watched Worldwide, Shows Off Chicago Skyscrapers

Nik Wallenda-6

Down on the Upper West Wacker Drive tonight, it was a fairly normal Sunday night. At least if you don’t take into account the bystanders sitting in clumps all the way from Michigan Avenue to Wells.  Along the river, up in the high rises, and just about everywhere you looked, people were gathering.

No, this wasn’t a re-do of the Chicago Fire Festival. If you somehow spent the last 24 hours avoiding legitimate media, social media, word-of-mouth, etc., tonight was Nik Wallenda’s attempt to walk unaided, without a net or tether, across the Chicago River on a tightrope 600 feet in the air.

The walk began from the Marina City West Tower across the river to the Leo Burnett Building. Afterwards, Wallenda went back up to Marina City for an encore of sorts, this time walking blindfolded across to the East Tower.  The entire event was broadcast live to a global television audience.

Wallenda made it safely across in both attempts. The first, longer walk appeared to us to be less than 10 minutes. No traffic to dodge or stoplights to wait for, so he had that advantage. The 15 mph winds were tolerable, as well. Had the winds approached 45 or 50 mph, the walk would have likely been terminated.

Although the walk was brisk, the wait time seemed to drag on forever

Chicago Architecture Blog photographer Milosh Kosanovich and I spent a couple of hours camped out on the scenic, open-air balcony on the 28th floor of OneEleven West Wacker. We were accompanied by a hundred or so other folks up there for a Wallenda Watch Party. Just one more amenity in a building chock full of them.

After Nik Wallenda walked a few feet out on the cable just after 6 p.m., we thought, “this is it!” Alas, it was a test run, to make sure the line was taut. Also, the Discovery Channel had about 90 minutes of pre-walk programming (and commercials) to fill.

Periodically, a chant grew out of our crowd up on the balcony of “Go, Nik, go!” It’s unlikely that the Wallenda entourage heard the call across the river on top of Marina City’s West Tower.


Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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