If the Three Wise Men looking for a certain manger in Bethlehem had followed Siri instead of a star, who knows where they would have ended up?
Thanks to a glitch — or something — in mobile mapping apps, including those from Apple and Google, people looking for Southern Lights, the illuminated holiday extravaganza at the Kentucky Horse Park, have wandered into some unintended places.
Such as the Barton Brothers Farm off Lisle Road.
Typically, visitors to the drive-through lights display would enter through the Horse Park's Iron Works Pike campground gate.
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But for whatever reason, hundreds of mystified drivers are finding themselves steered by mobile mapping apps and GPS devices to a back entrance to the park off Ky. 2909, through a tunnel under Interstate 75 and right to the Bartons' grain elevator.
There have been so many that the Horse Park and the state have put up signs saying, in effect, "Turn around, and stop listening to your phone."
That effort at redirection works pretty well — if the visitors read English.
Farm co-owner Bob Barton said he recently saw a minivan coming onto his property and knew the group was lost.
"Usually people turn around, but these people didn't," Barton said. So he went looking for them and found them at the back of his farm.
"It was a Japanese couple, probably with the mother in the back, and nobody spoke English, and my Japanese sign language is bad," Barton said. "Finally, I was able to convince them to follow me and I led them back to the entrance."
The problem isn't new, but it seems to be worse this year, he said.
Last weekend, hundreds of cars trying to make their way to a cheerleading competition at the Horse Park's Alltech Arena ended up on the farm. Eventually, Barton said, Horse Park police opened a back entrance that is normally kept locked to let them through.
"The worst is Southern Lights," Barton said. Because it's dark, people trying to visit the popular holiday attraction end up wandering in the wilderness. "One fellow told us he was lost for two hours and couldn't get out."
Lisa Jackson, spokeswoman for the Horse Park, said officials have tried — repeatedly — to correct the problem with the mapping services.
The apps seem to work better if you plug in Iron Works Pike rather than Iron Works Parkway, the official address, she said. A few months ago, a French travel writer heading to the Horse Park wound up on the Barton farm; he had typed "Parkway" into his rental car's GPS.
Jackson said Southern Lights traffic will be heavy this weekend, the last before Christmas, and the park is stepping up efforts to get out the word on which way to go.
At this point, getting the mapping apps fixed looks as if it might take a proverbial Christmas miracle.
"So we recommend that visitors use home computers to access a mapping service for directions, use the directions provided on the KHP website, follow the brown highway signs or call ahead to double-check their route," Jackson said. "Additionally, we recommend that out-of-town visitors use Interstate 75, exit 115 (Newtown Pike) instead of exit 120 (Iron Works Pike) to access the Southern Lights entrance at the KHP campground to help avoid congestion and a left-hand turn across traffic into the park."
In other words, use the directions that have you "westward leading, still proceeding," right to the perfect lights.
Finding the Horse Park by GPS
Type in "4089 Iron Works Pike," which should take you to the front entrance of the Kentucky Horse Park. The campground is slightly east; to avoid a left turn across traffic, take Newtown Pike all the way to Iron Works Pike. If you come to a tunnel, you've gone the wrong way.