I recently met two women as proud as Mrs. Claus on Christmas day! They are Callie Whidby and Jennifer Alexander, both long-time volunteers at Cherokee Caverns near Knoxville, Tennessee. Alexander, mid-day host at B97.5 Radio
, has been organizing and putting the finishing touches on preparations for Christmas in the Cave. I was honored to be asked to help hand out treats on opening night. The women told me it's been two decades since a local group has tried a Christmas event in the cave, and they couldn't be happier about the turnout of hundreds of people.
|B97.5's Jennifer Alexander|
Whidby remembers when her husband, Jim, first got interested in preserving the cave. She says that, sadly, the privately owned cave had become a gang hangout and suffered extensive vandalism. Jim Whidby got involved with East Tennessee Grotto and eventually as the cave's Director, cleaning up the cavern to make it safe and family friendly once again. "Everything's done by volunteers," explains Callie Whidby, whose grown son, Mike is also involved. You can still see the damage on several broken stalactites. Yet the remaining mineral formations and impressive cavern rooms are certainly worth the visit. Now, the cave is a popular destination booked by groups such as Boy Scouts who respect and appreciate its natural beauty. Security ensures that visitors only attend by appointment for guided tours or at special events like the one this Christmas.
"I think it's wonderful!" exclaimed Mrs. Whidby, when I asked what she thought of the caverns lit up for a Christmas celebration, "It's something the whole family can do." Live music, pictures with Santa and treats all add to the fun of family friendly cave exploration. Christmas in the Cave runs this Saturday evening from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, then again Tuesday through Friday, December 23rd. More information here.
Labels: Christmas, family, natural, outdoors