It’s not unusual to see people craning their necks and looking up in admiration of Chicago’s remarkable skyscrapers.
But on Saturday the upward gazing near the Chicago River was to get a peek at what seemed to be a perilously thin steel wire ready to be walked on by Nik Wallenda on Sunday.
Judy Merriman, 61, and her daughter, Kristi Forehand, 30, were among those looking up and pointing Saturday along Wacker Drive.
“I wouldn’t do it,” said a cringing Merriman, who was visiting from Wisconsin.
Wallenda, of the famed Flying Wallendas family, on Sunday plans to walk across the Chicago River — more than two city blocks, from the west tower of Marina City up a 15-degree incline — going up eight stories — to the Leo Burnett building. He’ll be more than 600 feet in the air.
Then, he’ll be driven back to Marina City and walk blindfolded between its two corncob-shaped towers, 543 feet up. That walk measures 94 feet.
“I’m hoping nothing goes wrong for his sake and his family’s sake,” said Ravi Chadha, 49.
The 35-year-old daredevil will be performing the death-defying stunt without a net or harness. City officials said they’ve decided a state law requiring safety nets for aerial acts higher than 20 feet wasn’t intended for “elite” performers such as Wallenda.
A rescue team will be in place. Wallenda said he can hold onto the cable for up to 20 minutes, waiting to be rescued, in case of emergency.
Wallenda’s skywalk will be riskier than the one that took his great-grandfather’s life in 1978. Karl Wallenda, 73, fell to his death while attempting a wire walk between two hotel towers on a windy day in Puerto Rico.
“I think he’s doing it to honor his great-grandfather,” said Chadha, who lives in the Loop. “That’s kind of neat.”
The Discovery Channel will broadcast “Skyscraper Live With Nik Wallenda” beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday. The live show will have a 10-second delay in case something goes wrong.
Sergio Alvarez, 26, visiting Chicago from Barcelona, was shocked to find out why wires hung between buildings downtown.
“This is the Windy City, right?” Alvarez said. “Oh, my god.”
Contributing: Associated Press, Tina Sfondeles