In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

History buffs: Evansville’s historic Mesker Amphitheater

Mesker Amphitheater...

It was being outside in the open air, bringing your blanket to sit on the lawn with your friends and family. The smell of burgers grilling made your taste buds crave food from the concession stand.

For over 5 decades Mesker Amphitheater on Evansville's west side played host to nationally known music acts, local groups and outdoor movies.

Mesker Amphitheater
The original amphitheater at Mesker Park was a smaller version actually located in Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden.

Residents from all over the tri-state have fond memories of watching their favorite concerts, local shows, and outdoor movies during the spring, summer and fall months. It was one of the few open-air concert venues near the city of Evansville.

Seating capacity included 5,500 in the chairback seats and an additional space that would accommodate 3,000 spectators on the lawn facing the stage. Making a total capacity of 8,500 fans.

Mesker Amphitheater
The original Mesker Amphitheater design was to resemble a version of an outdoor theater used in St. Louis.

The theater opened in 1952 and through the ’50s and ’60s Mesker Amphitheater hosted well-known performers, orchestras, plays, local church groups, choirs and theatrical groups.

In 1972 the facility started to deteriate and show its age. It was set to possibly close. The Evansville Parks Board decided to renovate the rundown venue and give it a fresh, new name… Mesker Music theater.

Mesker Amphitheater

Through the ’70s and ’80s big-name acts like kiss… Bob Dylan… Pat Travers Band… The Beach Boys… Reo Speedwagon… Ozzy Osbourne… Metallica… Johnny Cash… B.B. King… ZZ Top and Creed came to play at this state-of-the-art music facility to capacity crowds.

In addition to major acts, the ’90s ushered in a new local event called Mother Mesker’s Homemade Jam. This annual event highlighted local bands and gave them the opportunity to perform on stage and get experience in front of the hometown crowd.

Mesker Amphitheater

At the turn of the century, big acts coming to the venue became scarce and the facility became used mostly for local events and community movie nights.

 

Due to lack of use and extreme deterioration in 2012 the venue closed. Even though it has been closed for 17 tears, many would like to see it restored and used again for local events with the possibility of big-name acts making a return.

This documentary was produced by the feel the history program at F.J. Reitz High School in Evansville, Indiana about the Mesker Amphitheater.