Mike Sharan had never been to Colorado, although he recalls hearing stories about it and one of his uncles actually graduated from Western State College (now Western Colorado University).
Mike himself had dropped out of college in 2006 and was living a life in limbo in his mom’s basement in Connecticut working at Staples, when he got a phone call from his cousin who had been road tripping the music festivals. “He kidnapped me to get me out of here,” said Mike. “He scooped me up the very next day. I packed up my things, hit the road and started going to music festivals.” Volunteering got them free admission and food all summer long, going from one festival to the next.
It was 2007 when they arrived at the popular river fest FIBARK in Salida, and their plan was to hit the Telluride Bluegrass Festival next. “It was my first time ever experiencing anything like this and I was feeling huge emotions, mostly liberation, having a great time and loving life,” he says.
Mike tells of the feelings invoked when he experienced the Colorado topography for the first time. “The first time rolling into Colorado and seeing mountains was breathtaking, coming up the Boulder overlook and seeing the Flatirons, then the Collegiate Range into Salida, then Monarch,” and that’s when they decided to head to Crested Butte, having heard about it from some FIBARK participants. “I didn’t think anything could be more beautiful than what I had already seen,” he felt, but when the North Valley came into view at Round Mountain, Mike says, “I was speechless. It was like I was in another world.”
The people he had met in Salida were Buttians who lived at Eighth and Gothic and offered up their couch to Mike. “It was a new concept for me coming from the East Coast, because letting a stranger stay on your couch would never happen,” he mused. Somehow, Mike had lost his wallet with all his credit cards and cash so he needed to get a job immediately. He found a job working at Stepping Stones helping with the summer camp program. “It was a great job. I enjoyed it a lot, taking these kids out for trips to Lake Irwin. It was incredible that this was basically the backyard.” He spent the summer here in CB but felt he wasn’t making enough money and that he should return to school. He moved back home to Connecticut and enrolled at a community college, “but it’s a short story,” he tells. “I fell back into being not in focus and there wasn’t anything exciting going on in Connecticut.”
Growing up in Trumbull, Connecticut, Mike had attended Catholic schools until his junior year of high school when he switched to a public school. He played football and lacrosse and took up wrestling until he graduated in 2004. He had always been interested in art and drawing, greatly influenced from his graphic designer father, so he enrolled at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York in a graphic design program. It was here that he lost focus in his studies. “I had just started playing guitar, and started jamming with some people, mostly influenced by classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead. I’ve always been into music,” he says of his favorite distraction.
But returning to college this time, he stuck it out for three years in Connecticut before returning to Crested Butte in 2010. “When I finally moved back out that November, there was a decent layer of snow on the ground, and that was the first time I actually got a real powder day. In Vermont, if the snow covers the tips of your skis it’s a powder day. I was not used to skiing big mountain stuff but by the end of the season I could. I thought I knew how to ski but I never skied anything like this. It’s a whole different ballgame in a different league,” he says.
He had kept in contact with his cousin Charlie Wilson who was still in the valley, so Mike moved in with him. Mike got a job working at the Elevation laundry room, which only lasted a month because he got caught doing the powder day disappearing trick. “I called in sick but went skiing. I learned quickly it was a bad idea but in the long run, it was good,” he smiles and explains, “because I fell back into graphic design, and that led me to working for Letterfab, which was a national company based in Riverland at the time.”
He started out installing LED lights in signs and worked his way up to being the CNC computer numerical control programmer. “I was running a machine that cut the metal and plastic for the signs.” He was there for nine years and when the company moved to New Orleans three years ago, Mike was quite certain, he didn’t want to leave CB. “So I stayed.”
Mike was hired on by a property management company for the next three years until last spring when he took a position with Top Tier Construction doing field work, shop management and metal flashing. “But I’m starting to move into more clerical work with them, invoicing and stuff.”
Mike still pursued his love of music and is in a couple of local bands, including a bluegrass project named Secondhand String Band, (with Trevor Glavin, Jake Everson, Neill Sauer). “It’s an evolution of a couple other projects I’ve been in the past couple of years,” he explains. His other band is what he defines as the polar opposite of his bluegrass project. “It’s influenced by old-school punk, heavy, fast and loud.” That trio they’ve named Left On Red (band members are Jeff Walker and Alden Burt), and both bands are on Instagram at @secondhandstringband and @left_on_red_band. About seven years ago Mike was gifted his first bass, so that’s his instrument of choice now and what he plays in the bands.
It was 2020 when Mike experienced the devastating “Grand Finale” of his year. He was one of eight friends living in a house off the highway across from Skyland when he lost everything in a fire. “I was playing a gig at the Princess that night and coming over the hill I could see a bright light over by Skyland. It took me a second to realize it was my house. I floored it to get to the house because my dog was in there at the time,” he tells. Tragically, he lost his pup Luna along with absolutely everything he owned. “All I had was the clothes on my back and whatever was in my car. It was 11 p.m. and there were roommates there who were in bed. They ran out because the fire was going up the wall. It was too hot to get in to save Luna and they tried breaking the windows in my room.”
As this community has always done, it stepped up to help and Mike witnessed the outpouring of love. “The community came together for us in an incredible way. There was an overwhelming amount of donations of food and a lot of clothes. People started a GoFundMe and that helped out.” He was able to relocate. His ex-girlfriend Emily Wallick, who he had split up with previously, flew back to support him and they reunited. In fact, they married August of 2022. She now works as deputy finance director for the town of Mt. CB.
The month after they married, they closed on their house in Gunnison. “I love this place so much, I see myself being here. It’s got everything that makes me happy, it’s a tight-knit community. It makes me feel at home.”
Mike’s plans for the future here include music, of course. “I plan on focusing a lot on music and remodeling our new home. It was built 1948 so it’s got a lot of history. I’m still skiing as much as possible and biking, hiking and camping in the summers.”