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New tune
Concerts return to Cumberland Caverns for the first time in 2018 next weekend with the debut of a new series called Cumberland Caverns Live. Pictured is the natural beauty of the Volcano Room during a Widespread Panic show in 2014.

Cumberland Caverns Live is seeking an energetic sum of money from McMinnville officials for efforts to return music to Cumberland Caverns.

RCS Production president Stephen Moore requested underwriting of $48,000 from the city to boost a partnership between RCS and Cumberland Caverns to offer a new concert series due to Bluegrass Underground’s relocation.

RCS Production works with hundreds of entertainers from big names like Taylor Swift and Alan Jackson all the way down to up-and-coming musicians.

“We are a talent acquisition and talent services company out of Atlanta, Ga.,” said Moore. “We’ve been in business since 1982. We have traditional venues, like small amphitheaters and a lot of small and medium sized festivals that we work with, but also we are pretty well known for delivering concerts to very unique venues.”

RCS has six concerts lined up thus far at Cumberland Caverns. The new series kicks off Feb. 3 with Front Country and the Jon Stickley Trio.

Other artists already announced include Chris Knight and Travis Meadows on Feb. 25; Mother’s Finest on March 10; Shawn Mullins on March 17; The Secret Sisters and Lilly Hiatt on April 14; and High Valley on May 12.

According to Cumberland Caverns marketing director Kelly Roberts, visitors to Cumberland Caverns soared as people were drawn to the cave by the attention generated by Bluegrass Underground.

“For eight of the last 10 years, we averaged a little over 34,000 visitors a year combined,” said Roberts. “In 2016, we broke that 30,000-plus glass ceiling and we hit over 52,000 people coming to the cave from all 50 states and 19 different countries. In 2017, it proved to be another record-breaking year with over 56,000 people. In 2018, we are going to see about 60,000 people.”

City government helped with Bluegrass Underground by underwriting the PBS series for several years. In 2016, officials agreed to a three-year contract of $62,500 per year.

Late in 2017, founder Todd Mayo and producer Todd Jarrell announced they would relocate to a cave in Grundy County. One year remains on the contract.

Mayor Jimmy Haley the contract is “under review” when specifically asked if the city intends to pay the remaining year after the departure of Bluegrass Underground to Grundy County. However, the contract contains no stipulation that would require the concert series to remain at Cumberland Caverns.
RCS Production has a goal of offering between 18 and 24 shows in 2018.

“That first weekend, we sold 316 tickets,” said Moore.

Plans are to improve seating with mesh fold chairs and community seating. Menu options will be added, including healthier options such as wraps, salads and maybe soups.

Moore outlined the print, radio and social media advertising that will be used for marketing the new music series.

“We are aiming for high media coverage in 2018,” he said. “We have a lot to say about the new experience in Cumberland Caverns. We are out there pitching it, posting it and blogging about it.”

The presentation was for information purposes only.