Denver’s second largest industry will honor some of its top leaders at the Tourism Industry Hall of Fame dinner March 14, 2012, in the Seawell Ballroom.
The 13th Annual Tourism Hall of Fame inductees are: Cherry Creek Shopping Center leader Nick LeMasters; Colorado Restaurant Association Executive Peter Meersman and Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian. A special posthumous award will be given to legendary Colorado singer and songwriter John Denver.
The Tourism Hall of Fame serves as the highest award for Denver’s travel industry – which registered its best year ever in 2010 with 12.7 million overnight visitors, generating more than $3 billion in spending. The industry supports nearly 50,000 jobs in the metro area.
The gala is a fund-raising event for the VISIT DENVER Foundation, which has given out more than $376,000 in scholarships to 161 Colorado students pursuing higher education in the fields of tourism and hospitality.
For ticket information, please contact Keely Asbury at (303) 571-9405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Year’s Inductees to the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame are:
Nick LeMasters, General Manager, Cherry Creek Shopping Center
Under Nick LeMasters tenure as general manager of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, the shopping mecca has consistently placed as the first or second most popular tourism destination in Denver, according to the annual Longwoods tourism study. This is the longest reign of any attraction in the city. LeMasters has helped Cherry Creek host many high profile tourism events including The Denver Summit of the Eight Media Event, The Mask Project, The Medal of Honor Portraits of Valor exhibit, and tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
LeMasters has served on the Board of Directors for VISIT DENVER for the past fifteen years and is a past Board Chair. In this position, he was instrumental in establishing a five-year strategic plan for the Bureau. In 2000, Nick was appointed by Mayor Wellington Webb to the Colorado Convention Center Expansion Task Force. The task force was successful in launching the opening of the expanded convention center in 2004.
On two separate occasions LeMasters has chaired the board for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival; the most honored arts festival in America drawing more than 300,000 visitors each year. LeMasters has also served on boards for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Cherry Creek Chamber of Commerce, Young Americans Education Foundation and American Red Cross Mile High Chapter. He is currently serving as a member of the Executive Committee for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation where he regularly points to the economic impact and importance of tourism for Denver and Colorado.
LeMasters began his career in the shopping center industry with The Taubman Company in 1990. Before arriving in Denver in 1996, LeMasters managed centers in the San Francisco Bay Area for Taubman. Prior to his experience with Taubman, LeMasters spent 15 years with Dayton Hudson Corp’s. Mervyn’s Department Store chain. During his retail career, LeMasters held a variety of positions that included management of stores in Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and the Bay Area. LeMasters, originally from Napa, CA, is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento. He resides in Centennial, CO with his wife Robyn. They have three children and three grand children living in the area.
For his work in elevating the image of Denver’s shopping possibilities and involving Cherry Creek Shopping Center in so many major tourism events, Nick LeMasters will be inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.
Peter M. Meersman, President and CEO, Colorado Restaurant Association
Pete Meersman began working at the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) in 1982, and he has been the president and CEO of the 4,500-member organization since 1989. He helped to grow and transform Colorado restaurants into one of the state’s major industries, while at the same time making restaurants a key player in Colorado’s tourism industry.
Today, Colorado restaurants generate $8.2 billion in annual sales and employ more than 228,000 workers (four out of every ten retail workers are employed at one of Colorado’s 10,400 restaurants). In 2011, consumers spent $22 million a day in Colorado restaurants, generating $575 million in state and local sales taxes.
As a leader and spokesperson for this industry, Meersman has been instrumental in helping Colorado’s restaurant growth outpace the nation, even in these challenging economic times. The CRA Education Foundation's ProStart program that helps high school students prepare for careers in the restaurant industry won a national award, as did the Dine Out to Help Out fund-raisers, which helped bring Colorado restaurants together in the aftermath of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Meersman led the charge on fighting the Denver-only minimum wage and paid leave battles in 1993 and 2011, and CRA has been on the frontlines of water conservation for more than a decade.
For more than 20 years, Meersman has been synonymous with the restaurant industry in Colorado and he also has been one of the top figures in generating funding for marketing Colorado as a tourism destination. He was one of the leaders who helped resurrect funding for the Colorado Tourism Office, and then became the organization’s chair, helping establish the organization in its early years. He has also served as chair of the International Society of Restaurant Association Executives. He serves on the VISIT DENVER board, as well as the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and NRA Educational Foundation boards.
For his work in building Colorado’s strong restaurant industry and resurrecting Colorado’s tourism marketing efforts, Meersman will be inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.
Charlie Papazian, President, Great American Beer Festival
Charlie Papazian is one of the most prominent and recognized names in the world of beer and brewing in Colorado and throughout the world. When he started the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, it was actually illegal to homebrew and to operate a brewpub in Colorado. How times have changed – in large part due to Papazian’s efforts. Today, Colorado produces more beer than any other state, the Metro Denver area produces more beer than any other metro area and Denver’s Great American Beer Festival (started and run by Charlie Papazian) has grown to be the largest beer festival in the world with some 2,400 beers available for tasting in 2011.
Papazian deserves much of the credit for creating the craft brewing industry in America – and in Colorado, where it has become an important brand pillar of the tourism industry, exemplified by the fact that the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine just ranked Denver as the No. 1 microbrew beer city in North America.
Papazian’s published commentaries on beer have provided insights to the industry, advice to homebrewers, and beer reviews for consumers. He is the founding publisher and regular contributor of Zymurgy (the magazine for homebrewers) and The New Brewer (the magazine for small, professional craft brewers).
In his worldwide travels, Papazian has been both lecturer and presenter at such prestigious events as: The National Press Club, Master Brewers Association of the Americas, Institute of Brewing Asia-Pacific, International Beer Summit Japan 96, Chef des Chef International Trade Show, National Restaurant Association, Canadean International Beer Seminars in Amsterdam, Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto in Italy, Mondial de la Biere in Montreal, Rüdiger Ruoss’ Sommertage Workshops in Berlin, World Beer and Beverage Forum in Munich and many other professional and hobbyist events. He is author of five best-selling books (1,200,000+ copies) published by HarperCollins Books.
For his work in establishing Denver and Colorado as craft beer centers and for creating and growing the Great American Beer Festival into the largest beer celebration on earth, Charlie Papazian will be inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.
John Denver, Singer and Composer of Colorado State Song, Rocky Mountain High
One of the world's best-known and best-loved performers, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. His love of Denver, Aspen and Colorado led to many nationally televised music specials from the Centennial state, and many of his most popular songs had Colorado themes. His 1996 seasonal special, “Rocky Mountain Christmas”, introduced more than 60 million viewers from around the world to the majesty of Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, and was the highest-rated show for the ABC network at that time.
John Denver’s music spanned three decades, outlasted countless musical trends, and garnered numerous music awards and honors, including a 1996 Induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and in 1993, the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Music award.
The son of a U.S Air Force officer, John’s artistic journey began as Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., but he was urged by friends to change his name if a recording career was to be in his future. He took his stage name from the beautiful Rocky Mountain capital city of Colorado, his home state. John climbed the pop charts with songs like “Rocky Mountain High,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso,” – solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the decade. Denver's concert tours reached millions globally. The world was captivated by each new release, and embraced John as an international artist with 14 gold albums and eight platinum albums in the U.S as well as numerous gold and platinum sales overseas.
John Denver was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1974, and in 2007, the Colorado State Legislature paid him the higest honor, adopting his song “Rocky Mountain High” as one of two official Colorado state songs. Tragically, John Denver was killed in a plane crash in 1997. He was just 53 years old.
For his work in promoting the beauty of Colorado around the world through his music, songs and television specials, and for writing the song that has become an anthem for Colorado and is now one of the state’s two official songs, John Denver will be posthumously inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.