Legend leaving Mishawaka

Sep 262010
Authors: Jordyn Dahl

Music no longer resonates across the Poudre River that flows by the stage of Mishawaka Amphitheatre. There are no sounds of laughter coming from customers clamoring around the bar for a drink, just wanting to enjoy the night.

Pictures of past performers hang on the walls, and dollar bills with signatures of patrons wanting to leave their mark decorate the bar. Doors that were once open and flowing with people were now closed and locked.

Bottles of liquor adorn the walls and bags of chips that were once for sale still hang behind the bar.

The place speaks of a time that no longer exists.

Robin Jones’ voice no longer echoes off the old wood walls. Employees and customers are no longer competing for his attention.

Jones, owner of Mishawaka, is selling the amphitheatre after running it for almost 20 years. He bought it in 1991 from an old friend after managing it for six years.

The previous owner, Jimmy Coor, was going to sell it to the Colorado State Forest Service, which planned on tearing it down to build a parking lot.

But Jones was determined to keep the music alive.

“Music is my life,” he said in an interview with the Collegian at the Mishawaka on Friday.

Jones has turned the place into a local institution, with performers ranging from Brandi Carlile to Head For the Hills, a local band started by CSU alumni.

People don’t come back just for the music, though. They come back for Jones because of the tight-knit family feeling he brings to the place.

“It’s like coming to someone’s home and playing in their backyard,” said Leonard “Boots” Jaffee.

Jaffee has been around Mishawaka since he was a roadie with the Grateful Dead in the 1960s and 1970s. All five of his children and his wife, the legendary Mish Chris, have worked at the amphitheatre. The relationship with Jones and Jaffee is what has kept the former roadie around over the years.

Talking to Jones and Jaffee, the bond between the two was unmistakable. Jaffee had a prideful glint in his eye as he described Mishawaka and all that Jones has done.

“It’s a magic place,” he said. “The spirit hasn’t changed.”

The love for Mishawaka and Jones was a feeling echoed by employees and patrons alike.

“I love working for him. Not a bad thing to say about the man,” said Jackie Sindelar, an employee. “He’s like our father. He’s been nothing but great.”

But, last August, Jones was charged with the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana after authorities came to the Mishawaka property searching for a burglary suspect and discovered 280 pounds of marijuana plants.

Then, about a month ago, prosecutors added on an additional five charges, including attempting to influence a public servant, violating a bond condition and new cultivation, possession and distribution charges after U.S. Marshals went back to post papers for forfeiture and seizure of the property and discovered more plants.

Jones is due in court in January for a trial by jury for both sets of charges and is also facing a federal lawsuit for the asset forfeiture for his house, the $22,000 he made through drug sales and the cost of the marijuana growing equipment.

While Mishawaka was first included in the asset forfeiture, federal prosecutors agreed that it wouldn’t be included. Despite the amphitheatre no longer being included in the lawsuit, Jones has still decided on selling it.

For some, though, the love for Jones is so strong they won’t work at the Mishawaka if he isn’t the one running it. Manager and CSU student Spencer Kirson, for one, said he wouldn’t work there if Jones doesn’t.

He’s always in a good mood and a great boss, according to Kirson. Jones, he said, keeps the place open for the kids.

“He’s the best,” Kirson said. “He doesn’t make a penny but pumps money into this place.”

Although the legend and fun-loving man who has run Mishawaka for the past two decades will no longer be there, Jones is still working to keep the music alive.

He has gotten phone calls and e-mails from Connecticut to New York from people wanting to buy the place, all of whom shared the role that Mishawaka has played in their lives.

One potential buyer said that he had heard of the amphitheatre from people visiting the East Coast and was immediately intrigued.

No matter who Jones decides to sell Mishawaka to, he made it clear he will only sell to someone who has the same passion for music that he does.

“I’ll only sell it to someone who is going to keep it a musical place,” Jones said.

ASCSU Beat Reporter Jordyn Dahl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:35 pm

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