Natural Tunnel State Park’s Education Specialist Megan Krager says that over the past 15 years, the park’s Christmas Lighting of the Tunnel has become a beloved holiday tradition for many families in the community.
“We’ve been doing this awhile and it continues to be very popular. We have individuals who will come to the park every year. They’ve made this their family’s get-together,” Krager said.
Natural Tunnel will kick off its annual 8 Days of Christmas event — four weekends’ worth of light displays, chairlift rides down to the tunnel, seasonal music and snacks, and the chance to visit with Ol’ Saint Nick himself — from 6 to 9 p.m., Nov. 29 and 30, with festivities continuing Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 21.
Thousands of twinkling lights will greet visitors as they journey from the park’s entrance, down the chairlift and out to the mouth of the lighted tunnel, where they can sip hot cocoa or apple cider or roast marshmallows over one of several chimineas set up along the boardwalk as they listen to live seasonal music from local entertainers.
“When you have family in for Thanksgiving and you’re trying to figure out what to do, this is a pretty inexpensive way to spend the evening,” said Krager.
Popcorn, candy bars, soda and other refreshments will be available for purchase on the boardwalk.
Entertainers scheduled to perform include Strawberry Jam, the Gate City Baptist Church choir, Thomas Village Baptist Church choir, Rye Cove Community Church choir, Thistle Dew, John Kilgore Jr. and Friends, and the Kaylor’s Chapel choir. Storyteller Gale Buck will also make an appearance from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 13.
On Nov. 29, visitors are invited to “Give a Friend a Lift.” Those who bring non-perishable food items will receive a free chairlift ride. The collected items will be donated to a local food bank.
For the second year in a row, visitors can also tour the Carter Cabin, an original structure from the Rye Cove Fort that has been relocated to Natural Tunnel.
“Once you make it down to the bottom of the tunnel [on the chairlift], instead of making a left and going straight out to the mouth of the tunnel, if you make a right turn, follow the lit path to Carter Cabin,” said Krager. “Individuals from the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association will be dressed in period clothing to provide interpretation of the time period between 1774-75. They will talk about the significance of the Carter Cabin to the area and give a little bit of history about the time period of 1775.”
For more information, call the park office at (276) 940-2674.