Entertainment

Camping canceled at Phish's Colorado concerts due to plague

Outbreak affecting prairie dog colonies

(CNN) - The good news: A weekend of Phish concerts will go on as scheduled at a soccer stadium outside Denver.

The bad: There will be no overnight camping. Thank the plague for that.

Yes, that plague, the Black Death, the one that killed an estimated 60% of the medieval European population and, centuries later, millions more. Even for a fanbase long adjusted to curveballs, the situation unfolding in the prairie dog colonies that surround Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, is a new one.

Fans had been dreading the announcement that Phish made Tuesday, saying camping would not be permitted due to an outbreak of plague among the prairie dogs.

Health officials in Colorado said Tuesday that the affected areas would remain closed through at least September 6 as officials continue insecticide treatments. Monte Deatrich, environmental health manager with Tri-Country Health, estimated that 3,000 people would be affected by the shutdown.

Deatrich said there have been no human cases related to the prairie dog plague.

Phish acknowledged "the tremendous inconvenience" this caused and offered a portal for plague refugees seeking a place to stay.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park has not responded to requests for further comment.

A weeks-long plague outbreak

The trouble started in early August, when the Tri-County Health Department announced that plague-carrying fleas had begun spreading through prairie dog colonies in Commerce City.

"Numerous sites with plague-infected fleas affecting local prairie dog colonies will remain closed through Labor Day Weekend so that authorities can continue to treat the prairie dogs' holes with insecticide to kill any remaining fleas that could transmit the disease to prairie dogs, people, and pets," city officials warned.

A fireworks show was postponed, and Phish fans grew concerned.

As the date grew near, dozens went on social media to vent their frustrations at a lack of information and ask whether the rumors they've heard -- many cited friends close to the band, the venue or the promoter -- were true: Was camping canceled?

"People are already changing their plans. People are mad. People are Phish fans, and Phish fans that are mad are really mad," one fan, Keegan Lauer, summed things up to CNN affiliate KDVR.

But many took the threat in stride. There are memes depicting the band's lead singer, Trey Anastasio, as a prairie dog.

Another imagined hazmat gear featuring the drummer's iconic red doughnuts -- dreamed up merchandise for fans ready to battle the plague.

There were even plays on the lyrics: Fleas we have no regrets or plague it, Leo.

One fan made stickers that show a prairie dog, vaporizer in hand, wearing a shirt with the Phish song "Down With Disease" on it. They are $4 each.

It's not the first time

In 2018, the band was forced to cancel its music festival in Watkins Glen, New York, at the very last minute when the town was unable to provide permits thanks to turbidity in the water, a result of recent storms.

That festival, aptly named Curveball, resulted in tens of thousands of fans left to explore the wonders of upstate New York. All of them would readily tell you that it's too soon to even consider a similar situation.

"The shows go on, and that's the best part," Surrender to the Flow, a publication by and for fans of the band, posted on Facebook regarding the latest cancellations. "At least it's no Curveball! Just another crazy moment in the shared, collective history of Phish."

This story was updated.

CNN's Chuck Johnson contributed to this report.


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