Tuesday, December 15, 2015

DECEMBER 12, 2015
Mother Nature's splendor at Blanchard Springs in Arkansas

       TAKE SOME MOUNTAINS, add some rivers, throw in a few earthquakes, and a lot of rain, ice and snow, and multiply by 70 million years (more or less), and the results are caves, caverns, creeks and streams, waterfalls, and beauty that is unsurpassed. Throw in some park rangers, some critters, spelunkers, and visitors from near and far, and one begins to appreciate Arkansas, known as the Land of Opportunity.

       This writer is an admitted fan of the annual event around Blanchard Springs, Fifty-Six, AR, known as Caroling in the Caverns. The location is a few miles north of Mountain View, and during the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the caverns are lighted with soft candle-like lights which emphasize the formations from the dome down to the stalactites and stalagmites that tell the 70-million-year story of Mother Nature's handiwork.

Fans enjoying the beauty of Blanchard Caverns
before the show begins
*NO photos, video recording during the performance
        Fans of the event wait with their tickets in the lobby of the Visitors Center before they travel down by elevator about 216 feet to the semi-dark room. The Center supplies each visitor with a cushion to sit on. Caves are damp--wet, even. About 100 people are seated in bleachers. Six carolers wait in the darkness and they begin to sing "Silver Bells" as they descend the stairs to turn and sing to the audience. Oh! It is just magic!

       The carolers, dressed in seasonal splendor, are Robert Gillihan (mandolin, vocals), Mary Gillihan (choral director, bells, vocals), Marion Spear (vocals), Pam Setser (group leader, guitar, dulcimer, spoons, vocals), Ron Haynes (guitar, vocals), and Abby Spinks (vocals). Their masterful harmonies bring such Christmas joy to the room. How the musicians move around in the slippery darkness to pop up here, there, and yonder is amazing! Special thanks to Pam Setser and all the carolers for their wonderful, inspiring work year after year! Thanks, y'all!

L to R: Ron Haynes, Pam Setser, Mary Gillihan
Marion Spear, Abby Spinks, Robert Gillihan
wishing us a Merry Christmas as we leave the caverns
Thanks to Vic Setser for his help with photography

        The song selection for this performance is as follows: Silver Bells, I'll Be Home with Bells On; Beautiful Star of Bethlehem; Joy to the World; Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella; Do You Hear What I Hear; When He Spoke; There He Is; O Come All Ye Faithful; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Mary, Did You Know; The Bells of St. Mary's; Deck the Halls; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; White Christmas; The Ozark 12 Days of Christmas (a Mary Gillihan specialty); Jingle Bells; Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree; Old-Time Christmas; Angels We Have Heard on High; Silent Night; and as the group departed, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We left with them, singing right along!

       As we depart the Visitors Center, we are asked to walk across a shallow, squishy pad of water, Woolite(r), and another ingredient. The procedure is brief, painless, and not damaging to shoes or feet. The purpose is to try to control white-nose syndrome in cave bats. The syndrome is deadly to bat populations, and the staff at Blanchard Caverns is trying to control the spread of the disease.

      This writer recommends a weekend (or longer) in the Ozarks any time you can get away, especially for Caroling in the Caverns. You will need to select your weekend, your day, and the hour you would like to attend a performance. Shows are generally at 2:30 and 4:30 PM (Central). There are good hotels, motels, and B-n-B's in and around Mountain View, AR. Splendid restaurants in the area will suit just about every taste. We enjoy the Rainbow Café on the Square, JoJo's Catfish Wharf with its great view of the river, and Tommy's Pizza. We were sad to learn of the passing of Tommy Miller (1943-2014), who had strong ties to Memphis, TN, and who loved his life in Mountain View. Tommy's family continues the fun and good pizza at the restaurant. R.I.P. Tommy!

Santa Claus lands on the lawn of Pinewood Cabins
Why not pick (or sing) a Christmas song right now? You already know the words!

For more information:
Web:  http://YourPlaceintheMountains.com
E-mail:  mvchamber@mvtel.net
Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce: Phone (Tickets/Info): 870.269.8068
Toll Free: 888.679.2859


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