For more information of the Annual May Day Celebration or William Lightner's Grotto visit www.mtmercy.edu/grotto.
Mount Mercy University students and alumni will reenact a cherished 30-year tradition during the Grotto May Day Celebration on Thursday, May 2, from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. at Mount Mercy's historic Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto. Entertainment will include a reenactment of the 1920s Isadora Duncan scarf dance – once widely held on campus – and performances of 1930s music by Mount Mercy's Choir as well as a May Pole Ribbon Dance. Guests will be treated to a historical background on the Grotto and its architect, William Lightner, as well as offered tours showcasing the types of semi-precious minerals used in the Grotto structures.
In previous years, the annual May Day celebration involved crowning the May Queen, presenting music and dance performances, and capturing photo opportunities. This annual event took place from 1928 – 1958 on campus.
A favorite location on Mount Mercy's campus, Lightner was inspired to create the Grotto to express his personal artistic vision and religious faith. As a response to a request by the Sisters of Mercy, what began as a single structure became a twelve-year obsession for Lightner . The Grotto's features included a bridge surrounded by a lagoon, a 10-column structure representing the Ten Commandments, and a central shrine structure and two arches. Lightner used over two tons of rock and 300 different varieties of stone to create this unique example of folk architecture.
In the late 1960s, the Grotto and Lagoon had fallen to ruins as finances to maintain the structure dwindled. The lagoon was drained in 1970, and due to erosion, lack of funding, and vandalism, the main structure of the Grotto was leveled in 1974. In the summer of 2011 the first stage of the Grotto's latest preservation effort was completed, coinciding with the development of the new University Center.
The re-establishment of this cherished structure was made possible by the Iowa Arts Council's Major Organizations Grant (2011-12) and a National Endowment for the Arts ARTWORKS grant (2012- 2014) to Mount Mercy University. In case of heavy rain the celebration will be cancelled.