By Megan Pasche
Sometimes, you just have to let go and live life on the edge. But nobody lives these words more thoroughly than the entertainers of Niagara Falls.
Sometimes, you just have to let go and live life on the edge. But nobody lives these words more thoroughly than the entertainers of Niagara Falls. Over the years, Niagara has come to be known as home to those who know no fear, boasting a rich history of acrobats, street buskers, daredevils and thrill seeking performers (for more information on Niagara’s thrilling history of daredevils, see page 76). And though 155 years has passed since the first stuntman successfully crossed Niagara Falls with nothing but a thin rope separating him from a 170 foot plunge into the rapids, daredevil antics continue today to test the boundaries of what most deem the impossible.
Taking a twist on the traditional venue of street performances, this summer’s busker acrobatics are taking to the air and ground as world renowned aerial artists invade Niagara’s skyline with death defying shows performed hundreds of feet above the famed Clifton Hill district and the streets themselves with a wide array of variety acts.
This free daredevil series put on by Zero Gravity Circus, an internationally renowned Toronto-based circus production company, the Victoria Centre BIA and the Tourism Partnership of Niagara will showcase three separate gut dropping shows with performances running four times a day, five days a week until September 7th.
This summer will feature both variety acts and thrill acts. The variety acts will feature “a wide range of versatile, professional performing artists who provide engaging, memorable entertainment…variety shows are largely interactive and comedic and showcase the talent and skill of many colourful and exciting circus disciplines-magic, chain saw juggling, clowns, rola bola, escape acts, rope walking” and more. The Thrill act portion of Summer Of Thrills has been expanded since last summer, and Vince Ferro, Summer of Thrills event coordinator notes, “in addition to the wheel of fate and the motorcycle highwire acrobat act; this year’s Summer Of Thrills will introduce an additional death defying thrill act; two 70 foot high sway poles.” In addition, Vince says, for this summer’s event, an educational element will be added, with visitors having the opportunity to interact with some characters from Niagara’s daredevil past, including Annie Taylor, Charles Blondin and the Great Farrini. They will be available for photos before and after every thrill act.
The performers in this year’s thrill acts are Hans and Natalia Winn, who come from a long line of circus performers. The Winn family goes back eight generations into the circus world and are famous for their high wire acts, stunts and aerial escapades. Hans Winn, the patriarch of the Winn family, died last year, but his family continues on the legacy. Hans Sr. started in the circus at the age of 6 and he and his siblings grew up in a German travelling circus. The family moved to California in the 1960s, and they began performing in state fairs and festivals. The act eventually grew to include more family members, with Hans Sr. continuing to perform into his late 70s. Hans Sr. had six children and most of them perform in the circus, including his son and daughter who together, are the stars featured in Summer of Thrills.
Ferro says that spectators from last year’s event were amazed at the “high caliber, death defying” thrills that were performed, and this year’s event promises to propel the experience to new heights of excitement, disbelief and awe.
THIS YEAR’S THRILL ACTS INCLUDE:
The Sky Scraping Sway Pole Act
“Take in the unwavering courage of daredevil athletes atop 2 flexible slender poles. Witness unforgettable aerial acrobatics, a jaw dropping midair exchange and you won’t want to miss the death defying descent! Towering above Victoria Avenue at 70 feet tall and visible from a great distance, this heart stopping performance couldn’t be more high profile!”
Acrobatic Motorcycle High Wire
“A motorcycle balancing atop a thin steel cable with a trapeze aerialist beneath it. The motorcycle rider completes several death-defying stunts, including free standing on top of the motorcycle, as the aerialist performs various acrobatic stunts from the trapeze. Then, the motorcycle and aerial artist amaze the crowd by defying gravity and flipping the bike and trapeze numerous revolutions around the cable.”
Shows for the Acrobatic Motorcycle take place between the Tussaud’s billboard sign and Day’s Inn (5943 Victoria Avenue)
Wheel of Fate
“This act features an acrobatic daredevil acrobat on one end of a giant pendulum while his beautiful female partner counterbalances on the opposite end in an awesome display of incredible balance and impeccable timing. Witness the fearless daredevils as they build momentum while walking, running and jumping inside and outside of this huge revolving apparatus. Watch in amazement as these death defying athletes fly through the air like super heroes for the ultimate finale.”
Shows for the Wheel of Fate take place on the rooftop of the Imperial Hotel (5851 Victoria Avenue).
**Summer Of Thrills runs Thursdays to Mondays starting July 2nd until September 7th with 4 thrills shows daily at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. Street shows run approximently 30 minutes each and the sky high thrill acts are about 10 minutes each. More information can be found at topofcliftonhill.com