Jest Fest! finale features The Flying Wallendas

The Flying Wallendas, which will close the Jest Fest! entertainment series with a free performance Saturday at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, are shown performing their famed human pyramid in October 2012 in Ocala. (Doug Engle/Staff photographer/file)

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.

The last time the Flying Wallendas paraded into Gainesville, they came with a circus and stunned a crowd packed into the O’Connell Center. That was in the ’80s.


Jest Fest!

What: The Flying Wallendas perform in finale of free entertainment series
When: 6-8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free

When the internationally renowned performers return Saturday, the animals will be gone, but the high wires, acrobatics and comedy routines that have come to define the troupe will be in full force at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

The Flying Wallendas’ performance is the finale to this year’s inaugural Jest Fest!, a free citywide event sponsored by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department. The performance runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

For David Ballard, event coordinator, securing the performance marks an opportunity for Gainesville residents to experience a high-quality performance without having to travel hours to find entertainment.

“When I started organizing this event, I wanted to bring big names to the area,” Ballard says. “I started thinking of performers and naturally thought of Cirque de Soleil as the big name, and then I thought of the Flying Wallendas.”

The Flying Wallendas, which are based three hours south in Sarasota, originate from a family idea that dates back to the 1780s on the streets of Europe. Through the generations, the family has grown into its name and sealed its image as premier tightrope performers.

For Tino Wallenda, being born into a performing family is part of his identity.

“It’s my name,” he says. “It’s who I am. Why wouldn’t I perform?”

When Wallenda’s not in the sky on the tightrope, he’s on the ground running the show’s comedy routine alongside others. Performances rarely deviate from a carefully crafted routine that has been perfected throughout the last 200 years, Wallenda says. The family prefers to keep acts in line with what they have done because it is what the family has practiced the most and knows can be performed as flawlessly as possible.

“The bottom line is we’re performers,” Wallenda says. “We’re not performers in one place and daredevils in another place. Our thrill comes from the audience’s reaction.”

For those attending Saturday’s show, Ballard and Wallenda say the audience can expect to see high wire acts, juggling and a comedy routine.

Ballard thinks the show offers a rare chance for families to come together and enjoy entertainment together.

“I hope they (families) have a whole lot of laughter and merriment,” Ballard says. “There’s not much overlap for parents and children to attend programs at the same time, so I hope this is something they can share together.”

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