Photo originally published on Jan. 19, 1978


The Minnesota Sportsman’s Show brought in an aerial act in the late 1970s.

Well, not just any act, the very famous Flying Wallendas, as they had become known around the world. Though they called themselves the Great Wallendas, an adoring press referred to them in the 1940s as the Flying Wallendas, and the name stuck.

The family act performed several shows — 40 feet off the ground — in the old St. Paul Auditorium. Karl Wallenda, who was celebrating his 73rd birthday that weekend, supervised his grandchildren, Rietta, 17, and Mario, 21, and another aerial student. The patriarch also took to the wires himself.

Later that year, Karl would fall to his death while on a tightrope walk in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

His death did not spell the end of the high-flying family. Many of Karl’s offpsring, including his great-grandson Nik, continue to perform.