Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Mishawaka

The Mishawaka was homesteaded in 1916, which makes it one of the oldest venues in Colorado. It sits 23 miles from Fort Collins, in Roosevelt National Park, nestled between the raging Poudre river and a canyon wall. It has hosted legends such as Leon Russel, George Clinton, Bela Fleck and hundreds more on its rustic stage.

Its age and location aren't the only thing that makes the Mish an interesting venue. Its a place with a remarkable, improbable story -- much of which is detailed in this week's feature. But we couldn't fit every odd fact or close call into that story, so we've also compiled a list of the highlights.

See also:The Rescue of the Mishawaka

It's not just for concerts:

The restaurant at the Mish is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day during the summer and for lunch and dinner the rest of the year.

Some of the audience members are covered in fur:

Current owner Dani Grant says one of her favorite parts of the Mish is the wildlife. Big horn sheep, elk and the occasional bear occasionally perch on top of the hill across the river from the stage during concerts.

How it started:

Walter S. Thompson, (not to be confused with Hunter S. Thompson), a musician from Fort Collins who made his living teaching music lessons and running an instrument store, took a motorcycle ride up the dirt roads of the the Poudre Canyon and was so inspired by the area that he filled out the paperwork to homestead the land the next day.

He had no idea what it would turn into, but because of the language of the law, he had to make a profit off the land. So he started with a general store space and cabins he could rent. Soon after, it became a dance hall.

How it was powered:

Power lines hadn't made it up to the Poudre Canyon in the early 1900s, so Thompson created a water wheel generator, which can be seen in the picture above. Today, the stage is built on the foundation of the water wheel.

How it was named: Mishawaka is the town Thompson grew up in -- it's in north-central Indiana. It's about a third of the size of Fort Collins. Its first patrons:

In the early years, the Mishawaka dance hall was the only structure large enough to host a group for fifty miles. One of the members of the house band was Linden Myer, who was one of the founders of Fort Collins.

The interesting decorations:

Legends including Leon Russel, George Clinton, Bela Fleck, Billy Preston, Johnny Hartford played the venue, and their signed photos still hang in the venue restaurant. The collection is still growing, with the recent additions of artists like moe. and Joan Baez.

The old drug problems:

In September of 2010, a burglary in the area led authorities to the Mish, where investigators found 280 pounds of marijuana plants in Robin Jones' residence and in Mishawaka along with ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine. A month later, the U.S. Marshals went back to post papers for forfeiture and seizure on the property and discovered more pot plants. Jones was charged a second time for the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana. He was was sentenced to three years in community corrections and gave up his management of the Mish.

The new owners have a passion for bowling alleys

Dani Grant and her husband Matt Hoeven have a background in commercial real estate -- they own all the Chippers Lanes bowling alleys in Northern Colorado. They bought the Mish after Jones was arrested. The couple put $150,000 into the property in the first year doing renovations.

The fire:

In 2011, the High Park Fire burned 87,284 acres in Roosevelt National Park. The Mish only escaped burns by about a dozen feet, thanks to a team of fire fighters who camped out on property, fighting the fire with hoses and fire retardant.

The bus fleet:

Transportation up to the venue has always been an issue -- there is little room for parking and the winding mountain road is treacherous for people leaving concerts. One of the biggest changes instituted by Grant was the bus fleet, which takes patrons from Fort Collins up to the venue.

To read the full history of the Mish, see: mish story

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Mary Willson started contributing to Westword as an intern in the summer of 2014, focusing on the electronic music scene in Colorado.
Contact: Mary Willson