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Plague Outbreak Threatens Annual Phish Event

phish plague outbreak
NEW YORK - MARCH 15: Musician Trey Anastasio of Phish performs onstage at the 25th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf=Astoria on March 15, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Jam-band legends Phish have a bit of an annual Labor Day tradition. Every year, for the past eight years, they have ended their summer tours by playing three-night stands over Labor Day Weekend at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — a soccer stadium in Commerce City, Colorado, outside Denver. This year, the event is all booked; Phish are slated to play Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for three nights in a row, starting on 8/30. But there is one little problem that Phish and their fans may not have anticipated: Plague-infected prairie dogs.

The Washington Post reports that Colorado wildlife officials have recently discovered that black-tailed prairie dogs in and around Commerce City are infested with plague-carrying fleas. Officials are dealing with the problem by spraying insecticide and by temporarily closing parts of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, part of which is in Commerce City.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which has asphalt-only parking, is remaining open through all of this, and this Phish show is apparently going to happen as scheduled. But a lot of Phish fans go camping in the area during the three-day festival, and right now, it’s an open question whether these fans will be running the risk of contracting bubonic plague via prairie dog. The local Denver Fox station recently aired a report on Phish fans getting upset about the lack of clarity regarding those plague-infested prairie dogs.

Pennsylvania-based Phish fan Stephanie Bernstein, who admits to being “definitely a little worried,” tells the station, “I booked a hotel room. That’s beside the point. It’s the principle, keeping thousands of people from all over the country in the dark. If this plague is such a big threat and they’re being extra cautious, then they need to speak up sooner rather than later. I’m not sure what they’re waiting for. I’m really not.”

Here’s the news report:


If a Phish show leads to a bubonic plague epidemic in the United States, that will definitely jump up right near the top of the list of reasons not to like Phish. Thanks to reader Mike Keating for the tip.


This article originally appeared in Stereogum.