Michigan Mike was Nederland fixture

Torpie, left, with musician Sam Bush
photo by Joshua Elioseff

Mike Torpie, widely known as “Michigan Mike” and the founder of NedFest, was found dead in his car while parked outside of the B&F Mountain Market in Nederland last week. No foul play is suspected.

The coroner had not released any details about his death at the time of publication. Torpie was 43, a Nederland resident for almost 20 years.

His raison d’être weaved directly into the evolution of Nederland’s music scene. An aging hippie with a wry smile and a generous demeanor, he was an incredible source of community

motivation and his legacy will echo in town for decades to come.

“He was a really good friend,” says Denver resident Donna DuBois. “He always knew exactly the right thing to say. Everywhere I went in Nederland, I knew I could count on Mike being there and having a friend.”

Back in August, Boulder Weekly ran a feature on NedFest and met with Michigan Mike. In excellent spirits with mere weeks to go before the fest, Torpie spoke about how this year’s NedFest was the best yet and that the festival was always his yearlong labor of love. He admitted with a laugh that he was only willing to delegate work at the last possible minute.

“He was a big part of the fabric of what Nederland is,” DuBois says. “He represented a huge contingency in the music community and had friends across all walks of life. Just a lovable, really good friend.”

Torpie was a college radio DJ in Michigan when Leftover Salmon caught his ear, prompting him to follow the band on tour as their unofficial videographer and eventually move to Boulder. Inspired by the scene, he began throwing backyard parties that evolved into the first NedFest, befriending local bands such as Yonder Mountain String Band, The Motet, String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon and mobilizing the jamgrass scene into the local treasure it is now.

“He was a model of democracy for the rest of the country, a model of how to participate in your community,” says Vince Herman, Nederland resident and founding member of Leftover Salmon. “And that’s why the community is feeling guilty as hell, that we somehow let it slip through our fingers. We’re pissed, we’re guilty, we’re sad, we’re everything.”

Torpie’s effect on Nederland is literally written into the town’s legislation. He was a casual but adamant politician, changing how the city views overnight camping for events (namely NedFest) and helping to overturn the city’s anti-marijuana stance. His latest push involved legalizing golf carts as a means to reduce pollution and traffic.

And his legacy will absolutely live on with NedFest, the details of which will be sorted out when his family arrives in town this week.

Chris Perret, who worked security for NedFest for years and worked with Torpie when he was a trustee during Perret’s time as mayor, assured that everything will be done to continue NedFest in the wake of Torpie’s death.

“He put his heart and soul into NedFest and in the last four years just started breaking even,” Perret says. “We’ll take his baby and we’re gonna run with it.”

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