Shawnee Cave Amphitheater to reopen for Memorial Day event

Erected in 1969, the Shawnee Cave Amphitheater in Murphysboro, IL, was host to many major touring artists of the era. Bands such as Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show, Tanya Tucker (at 15 years old), T.G. Shepard, and Muddy Waters performed on stage as well as many great rock and bluegrass bands into the ’90s and 2000s. 

Boasting a gorgeous natural environment with a stage set into a deep, wide cave at the base of a mountain, with a sloping grassy area rising away from it, Shawnee was a perfect spot to enjoy music outdoors away from the city lights.

After its heyday, the venue ended up in foreclosure and was purchased by Jeff Parrish in 2004. It is now set to host a major bluegrass festival in May.

Parrish partnered with Shane Wade, who described the process of renovating and reopening the facility. “The idea to revive the venue was definitely top of the list of many ideal uses for this property. Jeff and I toured the property not long after closing, and explored the idea of recreating the venue. We gradually made improvements over the next several years.”

“The stars aligned in the fall of 2019 for us. We started to form a construction plan to make the venue ready for a new era of professionally managed shows. We were expecting to make small changes over the next several years. We booked a few midsummer events in early 2020, and then COVID hit. We paused for some time to consider our options and the future. After much consideration, we felt it was a great opportunity to make some major infrastructure changes while the venue was idle due to the pandemic.”

“Construction picked back up in early April, and over the next several months we made major improvements. We nearly tripled the size of the stage and installed proper drainage in all areas of the property. We built a beautiful wall around the seating area which overlooks a waterfall that dumps into a retention pond, and poured concrete all around the seating area and stage. We have 20,000 square feet of high quality artificial grass that will be installed this month.”

After almost a decade of detailed planning, hard work, and anticipation, the venue is set to host its first major event. The Shawnee Cave Amphitheater is proud to announce a 3-night, live, in-person music event, Weekend at The Cave, May 28-30, featuring some of the top progressive jamgrass bands: The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, Kyle Tuttle Banjo, and Chicken Wire Empire.

Wade stressed measures are being taken to keep everyone safe. “This is a live, socially distanced affair with COVID safety protocols in place. There will be COVID questionnaires and temperature checks. Masks are required, and we are limiting our attendance to help with social distancing. We have extra staffing to help with cleaning and sanitizing. We are following all state and local health guidelines to further protect our customers. We will keep an eye on the situation and if regulations change, we will change accordingly.

“There are restrooms and hand wash/sanitizing stations. Outside coolers and food allowed in the camping area only. We will have a stage in the camping area to showcase local musicians. We will also have an area in the camping midway that showcases local artists, merchants, and food trucks. Facilities are handicap accessible, and a shuttle is provided.”

Limited tickets are available. Onsite camping, RV, and VIP upgrades packages are also offered. Children under six gain free admission to the event; children 6-12 years of age are half price, at the gate only.

The business owners plan for even more upgrades.

“We are developing this property as a destination venue. We hope to build an RV Park over the course of the next year, as well as many cabin and tent camping sites. Our ‘stay and play’ vision fits with attractions in the area. Our property is abutted on three sides to Shawnee National Forest. We are minutes away from major lakes and wonderful hiking trails. There are also several tourist attractions within a few miles such as Bald Knob Cross, Little Grand Canyon, Inspiration Point, and Natural Bridge in Pomona. We are also located in the heart of Wine Country with ten plus wineries within 10-15 minutes of the venue.”

Wade concluded, “When the weather breaks, we are planning to do weekly local shows. Our goal is to help build the local music scene (in southern Illinois). We will focus on local artists and have 3-4 larger socially distanced shows.”

Tickets for the Memorial Day event are on sale now.

For further information, contact Shane Wade, 618-751-0838,

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.