|Roger Trevino, developer and promoter, brought Nik Wallenda to Niagara Falls from Orlando.
Nik Wallenda will get the opportunity to live out his childhood dream on Friday when he tries to walk across Niagara Falls on a two-inch wire rope before thousands of people on both sides of the river and a national television audience on the ABC network.
Come this Friday, June 15, the world will be watching Wallenda’s walk into history, putting Niagara Falls and its mighty world wonder front and center as the months of buildup come to a dramatic finish under the lights.
But Wallenda, the daring aerialist from a high-flying family of circus performers, wouldn’t be getting the chance and Niagara Falls wouldn’t be basking in the media spotlight if not for the efforts of two men who are responsible for putting it all together.
And their hopes for a spectacular success, followed by a Wallenda legacy for years to come, will be riding on that rope with Nik on Friday night.
The event, despite all the red tape in getting two countries to come together and all the technical challenges in getting the pieces in place, is on target for Friday night about 10:15 and it is in large measure thanks to developer Roger Trevino who started the ball rolling in Orlando nearly two years ago, and State Sen. George Maziarz who drafted legislation in Albany and worked the halls of government on both sides of the border to make the dream a reality.
It all started when Trevino, an executive with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR), was at a convention of amusement park operators in Orlando in October of 2010, looking for attractions to bring to Niagara Falls, and he happened to be armed with some background on the Wallenda family thanks to his friendship with former Niagara Tourism and Convention Center executive director David Rosenwasser who had also been an executive with Ringling Brothers.
Trevino, who managed to assemble more than 140 acres of downtown property for NFR, demonstrated his well-known marketing prowess when he approached Wallenda about walking across Niagara Falls as he was working the convention and looking at various business opportunities.
“I went up to Wallenda and said ‘Have you ever thought about walking across the falls?’ and he said, ‘ever since I was a little kid,’ and then he asked about the steps involved,” Trevino recalled during an interview Saturday. “Of course, I immediately thought of Senator George Maziarz and called him from Orlando to get on his calendar. Within a month or so, we were in George’s office and we immediately knew we would need a law approved by the legislature and signed by the governor to make it happen. That was just on the American side.”
Trevino said Maziarz was enthusiastic, and became more so after he took the measure of Wallenda and found out he was for real, that he had the character to withstand the scrutiny.
“We were fortunate to have George in the lead political role,” said Trevino, “and then I called upon David Rosenwasser to discuss his thoughts about the Canadian side, as he had just been through a consultation with the tourism stakeholders in Niagara Falls, Ont., and was kind enough to provide insight into the lay of the land and introductions. I would also be remiss to not acknowledge my friend, Goran Zubic, who was an early supporter on the Canadian side and the DiCienzo family, prominent hoteliers and businessmen on both sides of the bridge. Also equally important was the political leadership of both MPP Kim Craitor and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Mayor Jim Diodati.”
On the American side, Maziarz went to work, drafting a bill to allow a one-time exemption for the daring stunt and contacting Lewiston lawmaker John Ceretto to help on getting the measure through the Assembly. The bill, pushed hard by Maziarz, passed unanimously in the State Senate and Ceretto partnered with Cheektowaga’s Dennis Gabryszak and won Assembly approval, as Maziarz recalls, “by like 120 to 1.”
Maziarz says it was his impression that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to do something unusual for Niagara Falls, “and based on my word, he was willing to take a shot and he signed the bill.
“I think you will get more attendees in one day than you did for the whole Holiday Market, and more sales tax revenue in one night and more than the Hard Rock concerts, too. And all the publicity and worldwide recognition that comes with this event. The post-walk press conference on the American side has requests for credentials from 300 press outlets around the world.”
Maziarz, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former mayoral candidate John Destino, certainly has a lot riding on Wallenda’s historic crossing and so does Trevino, a marketing specialist who found an event that is being used to promote Niagara Falls around the world, including 48-second infomercials featuring the city on ABC this week during the NBA finals and other ABC and cable programming.
“We knew all the eyes of the world would be focused on Niagara Falls and it would create an opportunity to market the city, which was our initial objective,” said Trevino. “And it will culminate with a three-hour, prime time worldwide broadcast. It has all come together and the legacy of Wallenda will live as long as Blondin (who walked across the gorge 23 times during 1859 and 1860, downstream from Wallenda’s planned crossing). And they are still talking about him [Blondin] after all these years and you can find it all at the souvenir shops.”
During an interview from his Orlando home just a few days ago, Wallenda, who is ready to take his shot at history, said it is all happening thanks to Roger Trevino and George Maziarz.
“Roger said to me, ‘do you want to do it,’ and I said yes, since I was a child.’ He said he knew somebody who could help and he introduced me to Sen. Maziarz and that’s all we needed. Sen. Maziarz took over and made it happen. If not for them, I would not be walking across Niagara Falls.”
Trevino says he’s not disappointed Wallenda is being required to wear a harness by his ABC sponsors and that it won’t detract from the walk itself.
“We want what’s best for Nik,” said Trevino, “and while he has never worn a harness, and didn’t want to this time, it won’t diminish his accomplishment. The world will still be watching.”
All three men, Wallenda, Trevino, and Maziarz will be in the spotlight Friday night. Wallenda, on a wire rope, and the other two men, the ones whose efforts have brought unprecedented publicity to Niagara Falls that is expected to generate an economic windfall now and in the future, a possibility that was brought to life by the chance meeting in Orlando.
At the post press conference more than 300 credentialed members of the press have registered and the number is expected to climb as the event draws near.
The promoter Trevino continued, “The impact is immeasurable: hundreds of millions of people around the world have been reminded of Niagara Falls. Some of these, even if they do not come to see Wallenda on June 15, will unquestionably be planning vacations in the future and might very well plan Niagara Falls into their future.”