I just got back from a week in the deep south of the US. New Orleans and then on to Key West. About as far away from Canada as you can get and still be in the continental USA.
It’s always interesting when I go away to find out what people know about our home here in Canada. You inevitably run into people who know someone who has been to Montreal…and most know they speak French there. Two people I talked to had no idea that Toronto was in another country. They thought it was just up there near Minneapolis and Chicago. In fact the knowledge of anything outside the state of Louisiana, while I was in New Orleans, was almost nonexistent…in fact, it was pretty scary.
To be fair most had heard of Niagara Falls, though again some believed it was part of the US. And most knew that there was something going on here this week. Due to network news coverage and endless ABC promos for their live special…the Wallenda Walk is doing one of the things that both Wallenda and the Parks Commission had hoped it would…its giving the Niagara Region millions in free publicity. Nik Wallenda is right on when he predicts that the NPC will never get this kind of PR any other way.
The question that came up though was whether or not this will translate into more people coming to visit. Most that I spoke with were mildly curious…much in the same way they were curious years ago when Evil Knevil tried to jump the Snake River Canyon on a jet powered motorbike (because the folks at the Grand Canyon refused him permission). They were no more or less interested in coming here because of it, though the reality of that may not be known for quite some time. That kind of PR sometimes doesn’t show up for years.
If there is a benefit then Niagara owes Wallenda big time because he may actually end up losing money on this venture. Everybody is using his name; very few are paying him a red cent for it. And so much of the cost of the last minute hurdles are being paid for by the Wallenda family…from the cost of the wire itself to cost of hiring a company to string it across the Falls after the Niagara Helicopters were told they didn’t have the proper clearance to do it. Heck even the infamous tether that ABC is requiring him to wear is being made in his dad’s garage in Florida.
Overnight ratings will tell us instantly whether or not this walk lives up to the hype that many are saying could out pull the Super bowl and other extravaganzas. It will a lot longer than that before we learn whether the long term benefit to tourism makes the whole thing worthwhile. I just wish I didn’t have to find a parking spot.