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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeArts/Leisure'Cooling at the Cave' draws crowd on a sultry summer day ...

‘Cooling at the Cave’ draws crowd on a sultry summer day

Cool cave

Though day was ghastly hot, well over 100 Clarksville residents came to “Cooling at the Cave” for that natural air conditioning to be found at the mouth of Dunbar Cave. Some tables had to be moved away from the cave entrance because guests were freezing there (due to the 58 degree air coming out of the cave!).

Cool guestsMany people began playing board games just as soon as they found a nice table to claim for their own for the day. They knew what they were doing because they’d done it before. People played games, listened to the band and socialized. The cookies were wonderful, the lemonade great and the helpers (Friends of Dunbar Cave) attentive, refilling my cup if I even looked like I was a bit thirsty.

Cool bandIt was a day of nostalgia for many folks; organizer Barbara Wilbur was right when she thought that this would attract a lot of people. I heard stories about how Dunbar Cave used to be. Many visitors remember the days when Roy Acuff owned Dunbar Cave and they came to the swimming pool, bowling alley, the lake with its paddle boats, and the sounds of music at the cave.

Cool bandCool guestsThis event wasn’t planned as a fund raiser, but the volunteers were so generous in their cookie making, music playing and sweet smiles that the visitors donated generously to the Friends of Dunbar Cave. Special thanks was offered to Barbara Wilbur for organizing the event, Suva and Jack Bastin for the ice, lemonade and food set up, and the volunteers who set up chairs & tables. Kudos to the staff and Park Manager at Dunbar Cave who are committed to protecting the resources.

As for the band, they don’t have to and don’t usually play for free, but they did for us. Some came great distances and gave up their day to be with us. The music was excellent. Cool volunteers and guestsCooling

Special special thanks to Bill Larson of Clarksville Online, who asked Swan Lake Golf course for the loan of a golf cart, which they offered with a “Sure! No charge!” Bill then spent his time driving people out to the cave and back. Everyone who got a ride and respite from the hot muggy weather really appreciated it. Extra special thanks to Swan Lake Golf Course for loaning the golf cart.

This event was created with Dunbar Caves enthusiast Marguerite Rubel in mind. A guest told me that you can’t talk with Marguerite for five minutes without her bringing up Dunbar Cave. Marguerite used to play piano and sing at the Hotel that was on the property. She is an active member of Friends of Dunbar Cave. Sorry you missed the event, sweet lady, and hope you feel better soon.

Thanks to all who came. It really makes the effort worthwhile when so many people come to enjoy it. All day long I heard this question repeated: “When are you going to do this again?”

Cooling at the Cave

Debbie Boen
Debbie Boen
Debbie and her family moved to Clarksville slightly after the tornado of 1999. Debbie founded the group, Clarksville Freethinkers for Peace and Civil Liberties, in 2004. She participated in Gathering to Save Our Democracy, a group dedicated to obtaining free and verifiable elections in Tennessee. She has supported groups including the NAACP, Nashville Peace Coalition, PFLAG, Friends of Dunbar Cave and the Mountain Top Removal Series of Films and speakers. She participated as an artist in the ARTZ gallery group in Clarksville and won Best of Show, First and 2 Second Place awards for four of her sculptures. She won a voter's choice award for a performance at the Roxy Regional Theatre. She is a wife, mother and cancer survivor. She is always amazed at the capabilities of the human spirit, and the wisdom to find humor when there is none.


  1. I visited Dunbar Cave this past weekend. I do not live in Clarksville, but my dad grew up there and my parents lived there at 2 different times. I did not have a chance to go into the cave, but immediately upon arriving, I felt a passion to do something. By that I mean, I felt this overwhelming urge to be a part of Dunbar Cave. I had these huge ideas for a “Dubar Cafe” and the “Dunbar Company of Actors” Clarksville, you have a place of unlimited potential. But I want your input before I set my heart on it. I have a passion for acting, and I think Dunbar Cave has the perfect place for it’s own outdoor plays. A little stage lighting, some coolers full of water and sodas, and we’d be good to go. I have huge ideas. I want to know your opinions. Are you happy with Dunbar Cave as it is now? Because I feel it is neglected. You can almost hear the laughter and the music from years past. Do you want to revive the past with something greater than what was?

  2. The State of Tennessee purchased Dunbar Cave in 1973. At that time the pool building (now the Visitor’s Center) was is terrible disrepair. The cave had been vandalized including with a fire that killed a lot, if not most, of the wildlife living in the cave. The State made the park a Natural Area and the staff are dedicated to preserving it as such. Several years back, the City of Clarksville was thinking about buying Dunbar Cave. The Friends of Dunbar Cave resisted that effort because they did not want the premises to be used to make money, as it had been in the past. Perhaps people do not know this about Dunbar but many of it’s private owners lost their investments in Dunbar, including Roy Acuff. Along with the laughter and the great times had by the public, there was also a lot of disappointment and loss by previous owners.
    The Park is open daily at 8 a.m. and gates are locked at sunset. There is no cost to use the park; you are allowed to take walks, meditate, do acting, play music, picnic, fish (get a license) and such things on the park. The park doesn’t provide chairs or tables for such events, you can bring them in. No alcohol is permitted on the park. There are no electic lines in the park. You would have to get permission from the State of Tennessee to do any vending on the park.
    Your enthusiasm is great; unless you plan to take the park by force, next time come into the Visitor’s Center and talk to the Park Manager and discuss your vision. Better call ahead and make sure he’s there: Robert Wells, Park Manager(931) 648-5526
    The Friends of Dunbar Cave has a web site and they do some great things at the park, like Cooling at the Cave. You should check them out and maybe find common ground with them.
    Coming up in October: Haunting History Hikes at Halloween. Oct 26 and 27, 5 – 8 p.m. , non-scary skits done in the cave by young Roxy actors. $5 a person, children over 3.

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