Caroling in the (Blanchard Springs) Caverns
Just north of Mountain View, Arkansas
December 6, 2014
Alert: The photos are from 2013 due to the fact that there was no snow this year (2013 was prettier anyway with snow), and that there was a camera malfunction inside the caverns this year. The carolers are all the same and the music was wonderful as usual!
This is the Visitors Center at Blanchard Springs in Northeast Arkansas. Our trip to the region around Mountain View, AR, took us for the umpteenth time to Caroling in the Caverns, which takes place 216 feet below the Visitors Center. The Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event which happens from Thanksgiving weekend through about the third weekend of December. It is done by reservations and tickets. Just call the Chamber and talk to Dee about availability of reservations.
A brief elevator ride takes the visitor down to an entirely different world where special lighting among the geological formations casts a magic spell and wonderful local singers complete the magic with lovely Christmas songs and carols. It's a 70-million-year-old fairyland down there. The caverns are some of Mother Nature's finest efforts!
We are issued cushions to sit on in the bleachers down in the cave. It's rather damp when you are inside a cave. It's also quite dark, but carefully-placed lighting in and around the formations provides the perfect setting for what is to come. Enter the carolers to set the mood for the approximately 100 fans who have gathered for the first of two shows on this Saturday afternoon.
Carolers dressed in seasonal splendor stroll in from somewhere behind the bleachers and the scene is set. The lighted formations of stalactites and stalagmites make a splendid backdrop for the carolers and their music. The singing merry-makers are: Robert Gillihan (mandolin, vocals), Mary Gillihan (choral director, vocals), Marion Spear (vocals), group leader Pam Setser (guitar, dulcimer, spoons, vocals), Pati Long (vocals), Ron Haynes (guitar, vocals), and Abby Spinks (vocals). Not only is their music wonderful, they do a masterful job of walking around in semi-darkness in a damp cave. They move to the center in front of us, then to the left, then to somewhere directly below us, then to the right--and all of that movement without flashlights. It's amazing!
|L to R: Ron Haynes, Pati Long, Pam Setser, Marion Spear, Mary Gillihan, Robert Gillihan, Abby Spinks |
The carolers selected the following songs and seasonal tunes: Carol of the Bells, Christmas Time's A'comin', Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, Children Go Where I Send Thee, Jesus Our Brother Kind and Good, Unto You a Son is Born (Hosannah Emmanuel), Do You Hear What I Hear, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Gentle Healer Came Into Our Town Today, Joy to the World, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Ozark 12 Days of Christmas, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, Jingle Bells, I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus, New Kid in Town, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night (audience participation), and the hallway encore with enthusiastic audience participation was We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
The newest feature of Caroling in the Caverns is a shallow squishy cushion shoe bath which cleanses the soles of our shoes. As we depart the Visitors Center, every person walks on the squishy cushion of water, Woolite, and some other ingredient. The procedure is brief, painless, and not damaging to your shoes or feet. The reason is the increasing problem of white-nose syndrome among bat populations throughout the United States. Caves and caverns are affected, bats die from the syndrome, and Blanchard Caverns rangers and personnel are doing their very best to keep the syndrome from spreading.
This writer recommends a weekend in the Ozarks any time you can get away, especially for Caroling in the Caverns. In addition, the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce hosts Cupid in the Caverns in February. Shows are generally at 2:30 and 4:30 pm (Central). There are good hotels, motels, and B-n-B's in Mountain View, AR. Splendid restaurants in the area will suit just about every taste.
For more information:firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce: Phone (Tickets/Info): 870.269.8068
Toll Free: 888.679.2859
Pick (or sing) a Christmas song right now!