Friday, October 31, 2014  
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Cumberland Caverns has new ownership

Cumberland Caverns is one of the premeir tourist attractions in Warren County. After operating under the direction of president Roy Davis for decades, a family from Branson, Missouri purchased controlling interest in the business on Wednesday.
Co-founder of Cumberland Caverns Roy Davis announced Wednesday that his friends, Jim Herschend and his father Jack, from Branson, Missouri have purchased a substantial block of Cumberland Caverns stock. The Herschend?s will assume future operations of the cave.

Jim was a guide at Cumberland Caverns in 1971 and 1972, and his family has been in the cave and entertainment business in Missouri for over 50 years.

Davis will continue to be involved at the cave as a consultant and with public relations. Kris Beckwith will continue as general manager, and Carol Pedigo will fill two positions, chief financial officer, and chief marketing officer.

In a side note, Davis? friend and Cumberland Caverns co-founder, S.R. ?Tank? Gorin, 84, unfortunately passed away Wednesday at River Park Hospital.

Jim says Warren County has always held a special place in his heart, and that is one of the main reasons for his becoming involved with the business venture here.

?I am so lucky to have the opportunity to return to my roots, so to speak,? Jim said, ?and find the cave is in such good hands to begin with. Carol and Kris have been doing a great job taking care of things as our great founder and mentor, Roy Davis, has been slowly handing over the reins to the new generation.

?The opportunity to come back to the cave that captured my heart as a 15-year-old kid is super. Roy and my dad, Jack, were best friends, so I got a chance to work there as a teenager. I could not imagine a better place for a boy to spend a summer.?

Though Jim pointed out the family company was not involved in the Cumberland Caverns stock purchase and won?t be involved in its operation, his background has provided him with a great deal of experience in this type of enterprise.

Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. (HFE) owns, operates or partners in 17 properties in seven states, including Missouri?s Silver Dollar City theme park, and is also an operating partner with Dolly Parton in the Dollywood Company, which owns the Dollywood theme park and Dollywood?s Splash Country water park, among other enterprises.

Jim plans to use his knowledge to bring Cumberland Caverns to the attention of a new generation of enthusiasts and promote tourism in Warren County in the process. An aggressive marketing and promotion campaign is planned for 2007, as well as numerous improvements in the cave and to the grounds and buildings.

?Cumberland Caverns is the best kept secret in the state of Tennessee,? Jim said. ?One of our main goals is to get the word out about what the cave offers.?

Herschend says he has a good relationship with the current cave management team and plans to keep working with them to implement the plans he has for the local attraction.

?Kris is the general manager,? Jim said. ?He?s been there, knows the business, and I don?t know that I would have taken this on if Kris and Carol were not there. It would have been an impossibility to take on this project without them.?

Beckwith says he looks forward to working with Jim and sees great things ahead for Cumberland Caverns.

?We?re really excited about it,? Beckwith said. ?We feel like we?re making a great leap forward here in creating a landmark for Warren County and McMinnville, something everyone here can be proud of.?

Like Jim Herschend, Beckwith says promoting Cumberland Caverns is premier among the team?s plans.

?One of the main things that we?re working on this year is very simply making people aware of who we are and what we do,? Beckwith said. ?We want people to know the different things that we do offer, like the different cave trips and overnight excursions. Another new thing this year is that we will be offering facilities for birthday parties, weddings, company parties, just the general rental of the cave dining room for any number of activities. Cumberland Caverns is not just a May through October facility. We offer year round availability for special events and parties.?

Cumberland Caverns is open daily May through October, and for groups, by appointment, the rest of the year. For more information, contact Cumberland Caverns by phone at 931-668-4396, by fax at 931-668-5382, or visit the Web site at www.cumberlandcaverns.com.