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Phish’s annual Labor Day run in Colorado threatened by plague outbreak

via FOX 31
via FOX 31

You often hear about concerts or festivals being plagued with problems and setbacks, but this is the first time we’ve heard that an actual plague may threaten a show. Specifically, the 2019 edition of Phish‘s annual Labor Day run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO outside Denver. It turns out black-tailed prairie dogs in the area have become infested with plague-infected fleas. The Washington Post reports that parts of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to Commerce City, have been closed while staff figure out how to take care of the problem.

As Stereogum notes, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is staying open — parking will be asphalt-only — and the shows are scheduled as planned, but many attendees camp out for the shows which is where the potential risk is the strongest. (Parts of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas will remain closed through Labor Day weekend.) Not to mention the general unease the words “the plague” may strike in people. The local FOX affiliate ran a story about concerned Phish fans. “I’m definitely a little worried,” said Stefanie Bernstein, who is flying in from Pennsylvania for Phish’s three-show run. “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.”

UPDATE: Phish released a statement, “Announcement Regarding Camping & Parking At Dick’s Sporting Goods Park”:

As you may have heard, there have been ongoing cases of plague in prairie dog colonies in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge this summer. Fortunately, the Tri-County Health Department has advised that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (DSGP) is safe to host Phish’s concerts over Labor Day weekend. While there have been no confirmed cases of plague on site at DSPG, as an extra measure of caution, the Health Department has restricted parking at the venue to asphalt lots — concertgoers will not be allowed to park on unpaved lots or grass.

As a result, we are sorry to say that there will be no overnight camping allowed for this year’s shows. All camping tickets and RV tickets (and associated service charges) will be automatically refunded within the next few days. We recognize the tremendous inconvenience this may cause for those who had planned on camping. Our friends at CID have created a special portal with listings of nearby hotels including some with discounted weekend rates for Phish fans.

While DSGP has significant asphalt parking on site, off-site parking will need to be utilized to accommodate all concertgoers. We will be providing free off-site parking and free shuttles at nearby locations, and we will be notifying ticket holders of parking and shuttle details once they are finalized over the next week.

Also, please note that due to these restrictions, vending will not be permitted on site as the area traditionally set aside for vending is no longer useable.

Thanks very much for your cooperation — our goal is to make sure these concerts go off as smoothly as possible while preserving the safety of all attendees.

The plague in question here is sylvatic plague, which is caused by Yersinia pestis, the same bacteria that causes the bubonic plague. (If you’re wondering, the bubonic plague is not the deadly force it was when it killed a third of the European population in its Middle Ages pandemic and can now be treated with antibiotics.) Wildlife staff are coating prairie dog burrows with insecticide powder, originally working 16 hours a day covering the park but The Washington Post reports that they have now been able to reduce the amount of time spent on it.

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