By Maggie Canty-Shafer
When Mishawaka Amphitheater owner Dani Grant moved to Colorado from Philadelphia 16 years ago, she wasn’t expecting much from the music scene.
But as a lover of the great outdoors, the mountains were worth the sacrifice.
Not long after buying Chipper’s Lanes in 2003, Grant and her husband decided to open up the alleys to local bands limited by a lack of venues: A can of worms she hasn’t regretted opening.
“I was shocked and surprised by the healthy and vibrant music scene here,” she says. “The diversity, talent and abundance was impressive.”
Since then, she’s invested countless hours and effort to see it grow and thrive. As the founder of Spokesbuzz (a non-profit that strives to promote local music and arts by building more awareness about them), she is largely to thank for the Fort Collins groups sent to the South by Southwest music festival last year (and this year) and the national press received by many of our locals. But she’s not going to stop there.
“I bought the Mish because I saw it as a way to create a world class venue here in Fort Collins,” she said. “The venue needed someone to acquire it who could spread the information about the local [musicians] to national headliners.”
Since officially purchasing the venue in December, Grant and her husband have been on their hands and knees scrubbing the floors, walls and pinewood stage with the help of their three daughters. They’ve painted the purples and reds to greens, blues and browns, added tile and replaced the worn floor with beetle-kill pine – all in preparation for the grand reopening, scheduled this month.
The season kick-off show will be the Waterfront Festival, taking place on the weekend of May 20.
“This will not be Chipperwaka,” she says with a smile.
The Grants want to maintain the natural rustic charm of the venue while gradually improving on the cleanliness, organization, diversity of the lineup and sound quality. They also plan to connect headliners to local openers in an effort to continue boosting the city’s own music scene.
Roger Menell – the new Director of Programming and Venue Development – formerly did the booking for eTown Radio Show and has experience in radio, music publishing and artist management. His goal to make the Mish inviting to a broader audience with a more diverse group of local and national artists aligns with Grant’s vision for the venue. The schedule will be finalized and released this month.
“The Mishawaka is a treasure, and it will be treated with the respect it deserves,” Menell says. “We’re excited to welcome the community to a great new era for this beloved, legendary venue.”
The kinks in the camping arrangements and shuttle system are currently being sorted, as Grant wants the situation to be beneficial for show attendees as well as the surrounding neighborhood. She also wants to limit the amount of waste left by campers.
“We’ve been talking to the neighbors to make sure it’s a good fit for the community,” she says. “We want the Mish to be an example of sustainability.”
Eventually, Grant plans to add a craft brew corner and a display area for local artists, but the focus will be on the music.
“We want it to be a place where people can come to enjoy natural beauty, friends and great music,” she says.
Former owner Robin Jones is a friend and confidant of the Grants, and has been a resource throughout the process.
“This is a new chapter for the Mish,” Grant says. “I feel like it has a chance for rebirth. We want to see Robin be able to relax and enjoy a beer at a show for once.”