Group sizes are limited and reservations are recommended, except on the first Sunday of every December, when it’s a free-for-all party atmosphere.
Park staffers have no idea how many people will show up for the annual Mammoth Cave Sing.
Molly Schroer, Public Information Director, said, “Luckily, we are the longest cave in the world, but we also have a lot of really large rooms so we can fit a lot of visitors in these areas, as well as the performers and the sound just reverberates beautifully everywhere.”
More than 700 people showed up for the 43rd Annual Mammoth Cave Sing in 2022.
Even though the modern-day sing dates back four decades, there’s probably been music bouncing off the cave walls for centuries.
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“Music with the cave goes hand in hand,” said Park Ranger Dave Spence. “You see early visitor accounts of people singing in the cave and playing musical instruments.”
He suspects Native Americans also sang in the cave and said there are records of regimental bands playing there during the Civil War.
History shows that in 1883, some local residents dragged a decorated tree into the cave and sang carols. Spence said that tree stayed in place for decades until it caught fire, probably from a torch carried by guides or a visitor.
“That’s the only known forest fire inside the cave,” he said.
Performers vary year to year, but the Lindsey Wilson College Singers have been in the lineup several times.
“The acoustics are amazing there. We love it,” said Dr. Gerald Chafin, the college’s choir director. “We like to think we are singing ‘rock-a-pella’ music for everyone!”
Singer Lilly Clausen was all smiles after singing underground. “Usually we sing just in churches or in concert halls, places like that, but actually getting to sing in a cave with this many people, it was a crazy experience.”
Junior Kassidy Phelps said she was surprised when the director told them they would be singing in Mammoth Cave.
“I didn’t know it was a thing, so I was really glad to learn the history of the event,” she said, adding that it’s “really cool” to carry on a tradition that dates to the 1800s.
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Senior John Herrmann knew what it would be like. It was his second time taking part in the Mammoth Cave Sing.
“We had a couple apprehensive people, but they really were so glad to be here when we finally got down and they were able to get through it, so it was good,” Herrmann said.
On the surface, this might seem like a cold tradition, but deep down, there’s a lot of warmth. It’s always 54 degrees in the cave, even if it’s below freezing up above.
Javier Hernandez and Arial Cheshire of Versailles definitely have warm feelings about the sing. They got engaged at the event in 2014.
Hernandez said, “I popped the question. She said ‘yes.’ Now, we got two little ones and we try to bring them, to keep the tradition, every time they do it.”