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By Mike Hudson

The man leading the charge against Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Niagara Gorge, Paul Gromosiak, has himself profited from previous daredevils performing similar stunts.

Gromosiak is the author of "Daring Niagara: 50 Death-Defying Stunts at the Falls," a boring, 96-page pamphlet that retails for $6.95 and celebrates Annie Edson Taylor, the Great Blondin and others who variously went over the falls in barrels, crossed the gorge on tightropes or flew airplanes under the Rainbow Bridge.

A supporter of Mayor Paul Dyster who, like many Dyster supporters, doesn't live in Niagara Falls, Gromosiak appeared before City Council recently to say he's against the Wallenda walk because it would bring too many people here.

That would be a shame, wouldn't it? All those people might have lunch in local restaurants, stay at Niagara Falls hotels, or buy beer and cigarettes at local stores. They might spend money and provide a shot in the arm for the city's moribund economy.

Like Gromosiak, Dyster's against the event too, and was angry and upset that state Sen. George Maziarz and state Rep. John Ceretto didn't consult with him before passing the legislation that would make it possible. The very thought of Maziarz consulting Dyster -- even about something as insignificant as the time of day -- is laughable, but Dyster thinks he should have been consulted and so he's mad about it.

Increasingly, Dyster has become marginalized and isolated in the small city he purports to lead. His pronouncements about what he likes and doesn't like have become increasingly meaningless.

Local newspaper columnist Don Glynn also opposes the event, saying that it would make for a "carnival atmosphere" and destroy the dignity that is inherent in the operation of the nation's oldest state park. The fact that it might also give tourists something to do other than ride on his brother Jimmy's Maid of the Mist excursion boat and buy souvenirs other than those Jimmy sells in the shop he runs in the park probably doesn't enter in to Don's thinking at all.

Glynn wrote that the Wallenda event would have park designer Frederick Law Olmsted rolling in his grave -- but, strangely, he wrote approvingly a few years back when parking lots were expanded near his brother's boat ride and souvenir shop, resulting in the permanent loss of significant green space inside the park.

Like Gromosiak and Dyster, Glynn is a relic from the past. He actually retired from the Niagara Gazette nearly a decade ago, but hangs on in a part-time capacity, if only to serve his brother's interests.

But, fortunately, not everybody is against Wallenda's walk.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," said John Percy, president and chief executive officer of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. "It will bring back part of that nostalgia that intrigues so many people."

Sen. Maziarz agreed.

"This will be covered by every major news organization in the world," he said. "And on top of that, it's being made into a Discovery Channel documentary that will be shown over and over for years to come."

Maziarz said that, aside from the economic boost the event will provide in the short term, it will cause people to think once again of the beauty and majesty that are Niagara Falls and to promote future tourism here.

Likewise, John Ceretto heartily endorsed the potential bonanza for Niagara Falls tourism.

"From the earliest daredevils riding barrels over the falls to Evel Knievel's famous performance, Niagara Falls has attracted countless thrill-seekers and fans to the region," Ceretto said. "By allowing a skilled and famous high-wire walker to traverse the falls, the Legislature will help to promote tourism and increase local revenue to the region."

Robert Ventry of the city's tourism advisory board said the event would bring back some of Niagara Falls' long-absent panache.

"I think it would be a good thing, because it used to happen all the time," said Ventry. "It's been 100 years since someone has done it, and I'm sure a lot of people would like to see it again."

Clearly, the schoolmarmish prudishness shown by Dyster, Glynn and Gromosiak is out of step with good-faith efforts to revitalize the falls and the state park, which a recent New York Times article described as "shabby" and "underfinanced."

Such an attitude might be expected in Glynn and Gromosiak, who danced the jitterbug and listened to radio dramas during their formative years, but Dyster pretends to be a progressive-thinking rock and roller. It's a matter of record that his idea of a good time is slamming shots of Jaegermeister with band members backstage at his taxpayer-funded Hard Rock Cafe extravaganzas.

It's dumbfounding that the mayor of a city that is home to one of the world's premier tourist attractions would oppose an event that would without question be the single most exciting thing to happen here in decades. His opposition constitutes a slap in the face to every single person involved in the tourism and hospitality industries.

His motivation is strictly political. Regardless of what he says, he is against the event because it was announced by Maziarz, his chief political antagonist.

With any luck at all, the voters of Niagara Falls will relieve Dyster of the worrisome burden of politics when they go to the polls in September. He'll go back to his home brewing-supply business, and the rest of us can try to pull ourselves out of the morass he helped create in four years as a city councilman and four more as mayor.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 28, 2011