(SARASOTA, Fla.) — A daredevil grandma from Florida is dropping jaws around the globe after a video was shared of her hanging from a 100-foot pole.
“I love attention,” Carla Wallenda of Sarasota, Florida, told ABC News Thursday. “I’m 80 years old now and I started performing when I was at age 3. It’s part of my life. [I enjoy it] because I entertain people and I’ve been to so many places.”
Lyric Wallenda Arestov, 31, said her grandmother Carla began performing by walking the high wire when she was a toddler, after Carla’s father Karl started his own circus company.
“I’m [the] seventh generation of circus performers of the Wallenda family,” Lyric told ABC News. “My family came over to the U.S. in 1929 with ‘Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey.’ They performed and toured with ‘Ringling’ for 17 years until my grandfather decided to produce his own show.”
Lyric is the oldest of Carla’s nine grandchildren. Carla also has four children and five great grandchildren.
Along with Lyric, Lyric’s mother, Rietta, and Carla, there are three generations of women performing in their show, “Circus Incredible.”
Lyric said her mom’s oldest brother, Rick, and four cousins also perform thrilling acts like tightrope walking and the sway pole, which Lyric, Rietta and Carla are all able to climb.
“My grandmother was there when I was 5 years old and made my debut doing an aerial act,” Lyric said. “She helped all us grandkids. She taught me a lot. … She actually pushed me to go up in the air.”
Both Lyric and her mom, Rietta, climb an 80-foot sway pole while entertaining in their outdoor family fun shows.
But it was her grandmother Carla’s March 20 aerial performance on a 100-foot sway pole that had the Internet impressed by the veteran’s fearlessness.
“One of the reasons I posted the video is I’d love to give my grandmother some recognition and the fact that there’s still three active generations still performing,” Lyric said. “As far as I can research, she’s the oldest circus performer still performing aerial acts.”
Lyric shared the video of Carla, “The High Flying Granny With Nerves of Steel,” hanging off the sway pole with no safety devices and later, standing on top of it at the spring festival in Palm Bay, Florida.
It was her first stunt performed since her 80th birthday on Feb. 13, Lyric said.
“It really is thrilling. … It’s death defying, it’s dangerous,” she added. “She’d rather perform and be in the spotlight than do anything. She’s active, she’s very on it, she’s very sharp and she’s a tough woman — let me tell you. And she doesn’t take anything from anybody. She’s got a little spunk in her step.”
In addition to the 100-foot sway pole, Carla has also done pyramids on the high wire tightrope and the “Iron Jaw,” where she’s hung by her teeth off a hot air balloon.
“It’s a real blessing that we can have the relationship we have and do this together and it’s something I don’t take for granted,” said Carla’s daughter Rietta, 55. Carla is “enthusiastic right now and feeling better than ever, so were really excited for it.”
As for her secret to staying young, Carla credits her circus stunts and her insistence on following her dreams.
“I want everybody to know, just because you have years on you, it doesn’t mean you are old,” she said. “Keep on moving and don’t sit down on your fanny. Live your dream. Do whatever you want to do. My dream is that they’ll hire all three generations of us, performing at the same time on the sway pole.”
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