Lighting The Cavern

By BENNETT DUCKWORTH
Contributing Writer

Does anyone know “Weird Al” Yankovic’s song, “Christmas at Ground Zero?” The song is in my head now. Probably because Louisville’s largest disaster shelter has been given many uses since the mid-twentieth century, but this is its cheeriest spin, by far.

I don’t have GPS. So when my lady and I were headed to Louisville’s Mega Cavern, there was no earthly way of knowing which direction we were going. Thankfully, for their Lights Under Louisville show, there were signs on Taylor Avenue (off Poplar Level) guiding us through an industrial parkway near the Louisville Zoo to an enormous underground man-made multi-purpose cave.

For the past four years, I’ve been living a few miles away from this place and I had no idea about its existence. This shows how much I know my city. I am also a longtime resident of a city famous for horse races, but have never seen one take place in person. Maybe my not knowing about this particular wonder made sense. It is an underground establishment, after all.

In spite of our varied weather, reaching the destination provoked an alluring excitement because when you go to the annual Lights Under Louisville, it doesn’t matter if it is raining or snowing. There could be a storm blowing and the majestic environment of the cave wouldn’t be disturbed. It is its own world. Right now, that world is Christmas.

Where normally, not a speck of light would be showing, this place under the earth has the beams of Christmas glowing. The 850 light-up messages and figures inhabiting the cave have an undeniable power in such an environment. Whether you’re looking at Santa, his elves, Disney characters, allusions to nursery rhymes, the nativity scene, a menorah, Fort Knox aircrafts or Louisville-centric imagery, these luminous decorations have found an atmosphere where their very presence is…trippy.

There’s something about surreal environments that appeal to most people, but they really dazzle kids. The experience of 2,000,000 lights gleaming in a place like this would have been forever ingrained in my holiday memories, had I seen it when I was little. According to the Cavern folks, this is the only fully underground light show in the world. I don’t know where to look for proof of this claim, but I’ll take their word for it.

The slow drive through the cavern was quite an exhibit, yet only a portion of its 100 acres. The quarrying of this place began in the 1930s and wasn’t finished until the 70s. Louisville’s Mega Cavern provides various activities, services and functions. As I said, it’s function as a disaster shelter is known, but it also has a highly valued storage facility, offers tours, zip-lining and space rental for special events.

While their neighbors at the Zoo throw Halloween events, which cause traffic and parking overflow, making it hard for Mega Cavern to throw festivities during that time of year, I still think it would be cool if they could work in a drive-through haunted cave attraction during October. The eerie nature of the passageways could give its visitors the sense of danger growing, with spooky sounds echoing.

As Christmas music bounced off the walls on this particular night, I found the whole scene to be undeniably strange, but I’m talking about the kind of strange that keeps Louisville… you know. In Lights Under Louisville, there is no knowing where you’re going, but this place surely is mind-blowing.

Until Jan. 4, Lights Under Louisville will continue running 6-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission for Cars, SUVs, Trucks and Minivans is $25. Admission prices vary for larger vehicles. For more information about prices and the Mega Cavern, go to louisvillemegacavern.com.

Courtesy Photos