The last of the original Flying Wallendas is soaring high over Benzie County this week.
Carla Wallenda, 76, will carry on her family’s daredevil tradition this week as part of Frankfort’s Fourth of July carnival.
Every night through July 8 she’ll be 110-feet above the ground, teetering and hanging on her “sway pole” – a steel pole that swings and bends as much as 25 feet to either side of the wire.
She is joined by her fellow performers: husband Mike Morgan and grandson Cody Wallenda.
“I’ve been performing all my life,” said Carla, who began walking a wire when she was just 3. “It gets your adrenaline going. You’re out in your own world. No matter what your problems are, when you’re out there, everything leaves you.”
The Flying Wallendas were founded by Carla’s father, Karl, in the 1920s. It’s a dangerous profession, and the family had its share of tragedy through the years. In 1962, her aunt Rietta fell to her death, and Karl died in 1978 when he fell from a wire in Puerto Rico.
Today, different branches of the family carry on the tradition all over the country. Nik Wallenda – Carla’s grand-nephew – recently walked a tightrope over Niagra Falls from the U.S. to Canada.
But Carla was in Clio that day. She watched it on television from her family’s ice cream stand.
“It was just another day at the office for us,” she said. “You can’t make enough money just doing the act any more, so we added the ice cream stand and a couple of games.”
The team spends the winter months in Florida, polishing their act and keeping in shape. Carla performed in nearly every state in the country, but for the past eight or nine years, summer brings her to Michigan to perform at carnivals and festivals around the state.
“I’ve slowed down traveling, between the cost of fuel and me having to drive a truck pulling a 52-foot trailer,” she said.
Carla has no intention of slowing down her act, and she hopes to keep performing for years to come. Meanwhile, she’s helping another generation of Wallendas take to the skies; grandson Cody is in training, and he could be performing the family’s signature “pyramid” act – a double or triple-decker of tight-rope walkers – in the years to come.
But for now, they’re enjoying their time up north.
“We love it here. I’m just enjoying that beautiful lake,” she said.
Frankfort’s Fourth of July Carnival runs today through July 8. Carla said she and her family will be performing every evening.So, come one, come all and have a great week in Benzie County and Frankfort in particular. I am happy to announce that the Wayfarer is fully booked