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Wallenda gets a preview of wet conditions; Calls rain 'perfect' for practice walk

Nik Wallenda got his first taste of the wet and windy conditions he'll encounter when he walks over the falls, as blowing rain drenched the stuntman Wednesday during his daily training session.

The skies opened at 11 a.m., just as Wallenda was walking his practice wire, drenching him and causing onlookers at the Seneca Niagara Casino to take cover under a canopy.

Wallenda, though, didn't hesitate, continuing his walk along the lower portion of the high-wire. He didn't walk along the more elevated section of the wire.

"Just enjoying the beautiful weather," the stuntman joked to a ponchoed fan who rushed to take Wallenda's picture.

He walked in the pouring rain for about 25 minutes -- until he was fully drenched -- stopping and changing direction twice.

"What can I say? It pays the bills," he cracked after finishing the practice session.

Later, Wallenda told reporters he was actually excited about the rain, calling it the "perfect weather" to practice his much-anticipated tightrope walk.

"It's a great experience and builds more and more confidence," Wallenda said.

He also said lightning on the day of the event would postpone the show, but anything short of that would only be a challenge for him.

In upcoming practice sessions, Wallenda hopes to simulate the swirling winds he likely will encounter as he traverses a two-inch-cable across the falls, but has had a hard time renting wind machines.

Wallenda said he has signed up to rent wind machines and other equipment in the past few weeks, but the companies cancel the order because of liability reasons when they realize what the machines will be used for.

"I have stuff locked down, and everyone backs out," he said.

Wednesday's weather, though, provided enough practice, he said, adding that his shoes did not grip the wet wire as tightly as he thought they would.

"We thought we'd have a mist machine today, but God brought one instead, which worked out just as well," he said.

Wallenda hasn't been approached by government officials about wearing a harness on the day of the event, but sponsors have expressed concern that their brand would be tarnished by the possibility of a tragic fall.

The stuntman made it clear he doesn't want to wear a harness under any circumstances.

"I'm fighting with everything in me to make sure that doesn't happen," he said. "We're dealing with those issues right now."

email: cspecht@buffnews.com