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By: Emily Clingman
There are many things we can take for granted here in Northern Colorado. Endless summer sun, limitless miles of outdoors recreation and more local breweries than we can count on both hands spoil us mountain kids rotten. But there’s one gem in our backyard that we almost lost—twice—that would have burned a hole in or hearts.
With the Hewlett Gulch Fire taunting it from four miles away and the High Park Fire surrounding it within feet, The Mishawaka withstood nature’s adversity this summer and still stands as the best music venue ever, at least in our neck of the woods.
“The whole time, I believed it would be okay,” said Mish owner, Dani Grant. “But that’s not to say there weren’t many sleepless nights.”
On the morning of June 9th, lightning struck a tree near The Mish in neighboring Rist Canyon.
“I was in town that morning and saw the smoke,” Grant said. “It just kept growing and growing all day and I thought, ‘Oh, this can’t be good.’”
It wasn’t. The lightning sparked a raging wildfire that quickly spread out of control within hours, devouring more than 200 homes and eventually ravaged almost 90,000 acres of woodland just west of Fort Collins.
“By six o’clock (on the first day of the fire), the entire Poudre Canyon was under a mandatory evacuation, including The Mish,” Grant recalled. “And we weren’t allowed back for seventeen days.”
Two and a half weeks of agony ensued for Grant and Team Mish. She stressed that although she was concerned about the legendary outdoor theater, which has hosted bands like Jerry Garcia, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti, String Cheese; favorite locals like Dubskin and Dead Floyd; and many more over the years, her heart really went out to the residents.
“This is a business, not a home,” Grant said. “Really, we can build everything back. Everything is replaceable except the business intelligence. Basically we were out the door with our lap tops.”
What she didn’t anticipate was the snowball of nationwide concern that mounted for The Mishawaka during the High Park Fire. Facebook posts alone came in by the dozens almost every day. Grant’s friends and family from back East inquired about its status and there was even a discussion thread on the band, Phish’s website that included people from all over the country that have been to The Mish who were sending good vibes our way.
“The real story is about those who protected this place though,” said Grant, referring to the fire fighters who strategically fended off the fire from the restaurant and amphitheater. “It wasn’t until I went into the building for the first time and read the letter from David Vitwar (an officer from the Colorado Springs F.D.), that I finally broke down and cried.” In a handwritten note from a memo pad, left on the bar, Officer Vitwar, along with fellow Division Supervisor, Jim Genung, explained how The Mish was saved:
“…I thought you might like to know who was protecting The Mish on the afternoon of June 24th; The National Guard, Loveland Fire Authority, Nesbitt’s Arizona Engine, Canon City, Upper Pine, and a 2TC helicopter. This truly was an interagency operation…Long Live The Mish!”
After a few days of clearing through emotions… and a really stinky kitchen, The Mish patriotically reopened its doors on July 4th and Grant came up with a plan to help those who fought so tirelessly to save The Mish and the wilderness it resides in. She set up a collection fund to raise money for the local volunteer fire departments that depleted their resources, and sacrificed immeasurably for the community’s greater good and safety. The Grateful Fund will be open for donations until September 7th, when the Mish will host Grateful Fest—a celebration in honor of those who fiercely fought the High Park Fire. Head for the Hills, The Motet and special guests will co-bill the event, where a monument to fire survivors will be unveiled and a check signed to the beneficiaries of The Grateful Fund will be handed over.
“Our existence is from the hard work of the fire fighters, who mostly are volunteers,” Grant said. “In the worst scenario, this could have burned to the ground and the property could have been turned into a boat launch.”
Well, there’s plenty of other places for that, but there’s no place like The Mishawaka.
To show your happiness, gratitude and hope for 100 more years of The Mish, bring your donations and your groovy booty to the High Park Benefit Show: Grateful Fest, on September 7th. Go to themishawaka.com for more details and ticket information.