Parkland Press

Saturday, October 19, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICK“Hey, Mom. I found a purple one,” says Ember Harenza, 4, a daughter of Wendy Harenza of Cumru Township, Berks County, as she pans for gemstones at the sluice at Crystal Cave. PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICK“Hey, Mom. I found a purple one,” says Ember Harenza, 4, a daughter of Wendy Harenza of Cumru Township, Berks County, as she pans for gemstones at the sluice at Crystal Cave.
PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKLeon Fagbemi and Amber Van Nijk of Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” perform in Crystal Cave, Kutztown. PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKLeon Fagbemi and Amber Van Nijk of Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” perform in Crystal Cave, Kutztown.
PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKCirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers Amber Van Nijk is held aloft by her partner Leon Fagbemi at entrance to Crystal Cave, Kutztown. PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKCirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers Amber Van Nijk is held aloft by her partner Leon Fagbemi at entrance to Crystal Cave, Kutztown.
PRESS PHOTOs BY LORI PATRICKCirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers Amber Van Nijk balancing on one hand and Leon Fagbemi in Crystal Cave, Kutztown. PRESS PHOTOs BY LORI PATRICKCirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers Amber Van Nijk balancing on one hand and Leon Fagbemi in Crystal Cave, Kutztown.
Crystal Cave, in operation since 1923, was discovered in 1871. Crystal Cave, in operation since 1923, was discovered in 1871.
PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKKathy Campbell, President, Crystal Cave, Inc. PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICKKathy Campbell, President, Crystal Cave, Inc.

Crystal Cave a cool place for family visit in summer

Friday, July 5, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Crystal Cave was discovered nearly 150 years ago.

Recently, it was discovered by Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal.”

Leon Fagbemi of London lifted his Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” partner Amber Van Nijk of Belgium high above his head as she balanced on his hands outside the entrance to Crystal Cave.

They performed acrobatic moves seen in Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal,” June 26-30, PPL Center, Allentown.

The “Crystal” duo visited Crysal Cave, Richmond Township, Berks County, June 25.

It was a match made, if not in heaven, then under the hills west of Kutztown.

“Crystal” meets Crystal Cave.

Was the visit by Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers a first for Crystal Cave?

“Absolutely, to have acrobats here,” says Crystal Cave, Inc., President Kathy Campbell.

It’s also a first for the Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” duo.

“We don’t have anything like this in London,” says Fagbemi, then jokes. “It’s the same temperature.”

The temperature inside Crystal Cave, which is closed March 1-Nov. 30, is about 56 degrees fahrenheit year-round.

The “Crystal” duo repeated another routine, known in circus performer parlance as “A Split Mexican,” and other moves and poses inside Crystal Cave in The Crystal Ballroom, the largest cavern approximately 125 feet under the ground.

The idea for Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers to visit Crystal Cave originated with Carole J. Morganti, of CJM Public Relations, and Bryan Buttler, founder, Bryan Buttler Media Relations, LLC, who are handling publicity for Cirque du Soleil “Crystal.”

“We thought it was a natural to have ‘Crystal’ at Crystal Cave,” says Buttler.

It tied into the theme of the Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” show, whereby a young woman, Crystal, falls through the ice of a frozen pond into an underwater world.

Crystal Cave has concrete walkways and steps and metal handrails, installed during the 1930s. Originally, there were wooden pathways. In recent years, dramatic lighting was added.

“It’s family-owned by the Kaufman and DeLong familes since 1923, but it was operating for 50 years before it was bought,” says Campbell.

The 150-acre tourist attraction includes a restaurant, ice-cream parlor, museum, miniature golf course, nature trail, sluice (to pan for gemstones) and gift shop.

“Crystal Cave was discovered Nov. 12, 1871, by two farmers blasting this side of the mountain for limestone to fertilize their fields.

“They gathered that night at a local tavern. They had ropes and torches and they made it to the ice cream cone formation,” says Campbell, referring to the cave’s prominent stalagmite, a rock formation that accumulates on a cave floor from ceiling drippings.

“A neighbor, Samuel Kohler, started renting the cave in January 1872. It was 25 cents to take the tour. They provided protective clothing. People came in their Sunday-best,” Campbell says.

The one-hour Crystal Cave tour, which includes a film shown in a building outside the cave entrance, allows visitors to walk about 500 feet inside the approximately 60-foot-wide and 2,000-foot-long cave.

“It’s beautiful. I didn’t know what to expect,” says Van Nijk.

“That’s what we’re know for, our phenomenal ornamentation,” Campbell says.

It was Van Nijk’s first time in a cave.

Fagbemi previously visited caves. He never performed in a cave.

Fagbemi and Van Nijk play a variety of characters in “Crystal.”

In the circus performance arts, they are known as hand-to-hand artists.

“I have a background in gymnastics. There are five categories. Mine is mixed pairs,” Fagbemi says.

Fagbemi’s role is that of a mixed-pair base.

Van Nijk’s role is that of a mixed-pair flyer.

Fagbemi, 32, trained at Bromley Valley Gymnastics Centre, Bromley, United Kingdom. He submitted a video to Cirque du Soleil and auditioned in London. He has been on tour with Cirque du Soleil since February.

Van Nijk, 26, was seen at a gymnastics competition by Cirque du Soleil scouts. She has toured with Cirque for nine years.

They began gymnastics at elementary-school ages. Each studied ballet.

“Crystal” combines acrobatics and ice-skating, a performance combination said to never have been done before in a show.

This year, “Crystal” is touring the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

After the PPL Center, Allentown, performances, Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” heads to Leon’s Centre, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, July 3-7; Erie Insurance Arena, July 10-14, Erie; Spectrum Center, July 17-21, Charlotte, N.C.; Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, July 24-28, Indianapolis, Ind.; SNHU Arena, Aug. 1-4, Manchester, N.H., and Cross Insurance Arena, Aug. 7-11, Portland, Me.

Then, it’s on to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, and Mexico. The “Crystal” tour concludes the year in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Russian Federation countries.

Crystal Cave, 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown; crystalcavepa.com; 610-683-6765

Cirque du Soleil “Crystal,” cirquedusoleil.com