Past Hall of Fame Inductees
The Denver & Colorado Travel Industry Hall of Fame was created to recognize outstanding individuals who through their leadership, dedication and professionalism have made significant contributions to the travel industry in Denver and Colorado.
Bill Daniels was a born entrepreneur and is widely considered one of the great business visionaries of the twentieth century. His brilliance in business was matched by his sincere compassion for people and his desire to help those in need. Bill began his business career by opening an insurance agency in Casper, Wyoming. On a drive home after visiting family in New Mexico, Bill stopped for lunch in Denver. A boxing match flickered on a small black and white screen behind the bar. It was Bill’s first encounter with television, and he was captivated. He learned that many small towns — including Casper — did not have access to TV. As a result, Bill started building Casper’s first cable system in 1952. As one of the earliest pioneers in cable TV, Bill owned and operated hundreds of systems across the country. The firm he founded, Daniels & Associates, operated these properties and brokered many of the deals that shaped the industry. Bill’s leadership attracted many technology and communications companies to the area, making Denver the recognized “cable capital of the world.”
An avid sports fan, Bill was one of the first in his industry to focus on generating sports programming, clearing the way for today’s regional sports networks. He sponsored a number of professional boxers, served as president of the American Basketball Association, was a founder of the United States Football League, and was an owner of professional sports teams, including the Utah Stars and the Los Angeles Lakers. He played a significant behind-the-scenes role in bringing teams and stadiums to Denver.
During the course of his life, the respect Bill earned for his achievements in business was matched by the admiration generated by his philanthropy. With his plane, he set a new round-the-world speed record for business jets while raising $300,000 for education. He opened his home, Cableland, to fundraising events for nonprofits dozens of times per year, and donated the house to the City of Denver as the official mayoral residence. Bill provided significant support to innovative education efforts. He collaborated with the University of Denver to incorporate ethics, values, and personal integrity into the business school curriculum. In 1994, the school was renamed Daniels College of Business in Bill’s honor. The Daniels Fund continues Bill Daniels’ legacy of compassion and generosity by providing grants to outstanding nonprofit organizations, and scholarships to deserving students, in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
For his long history of supporting historic preservation mixed with a re-energizing of Denver’s retail, restaurant and entertainment scene, Jeff Hermanson, chief executive officer of Larimer Associates is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame. Jeff founded Larimer Associates in 1987 and in 1993, Jeff purchased Larimer Square, the firm’s most high-profile property. The 220,000-square-foot office and retail property is a full city-block of downtown Denver and encompasses the largest assemblage of National Historic Registered buildings in Colorado. With Jeff’s leadership, the property has been re-positioned over the past 15 years to include one of the best collections of independently-owned fashion boutiques and chef-owned and operated restaurants in the state, perhaps the country, and consistently ranks as one of Denver’s top attractions for both visitors and Denver residents. Additionally, Jeff has partnered with a number of Denver’s notable chefs and restaurateurs to create some of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Corridor 44 and TAG. Recently, Jeff opened a number of award-winning neighborhood restaurants in Denver, including Billy’s Inn, LoHi SteakBar, Ernie’s Bar & Pizza, and the Lowry Beer Garden. And most recently, Jeff was a principal partner in the restoration of Denver Union Station. Larimer Square and Denver Union Station are Denver’s most iconic attractions. Jeff’s philanthropic and social responsibility efforts are principally focused on hunger awareness and land conservation. He was recently named to the Board of Directors for We Don’t Waste, and Jeff has been a board member and served as the President of the Crested Butte Land Trust in addition to serving on the board of the Downtown Denver Partnership. Hermanson is also the founder of the Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival which benefits the Crested Butte Center for the Arts.
The Colorado Crossroads National Qualifier is America's third largest indoor volleyball tournament with 1,285 girls’ volleyball teams playing annually over two weekends in late February or early March, a traditionally slow time for hotels and restaurants. The event has been coming to downtown Denver since 1996, bringing as many as 45,000 people each time, creating an economic impact as high as $25 million per tournament. Hotels are sold out, restaurants have to put on extra staff to deal with volumes higher than experienced during the Democratic National Convention, and shops from the 16th Street Mall to Cherry Creek are swamped with thousands of young shoppers. Since 1996, Kay Rogness has been the tournament executive director and driving force behind this event. Because the teams come from all over the country (30 different states were represented in 2014), this is the first time many of the players and accompanying coaches, family and friends have been to Denver. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of young girls playing in the tournament in Denver have developed a love for the city, returning over and over again as tourists and tournament participants. Considering the immediate economic benefit, the longevity of the event, and the residual tourism it has generated for decades, this is one of the largest and most economically significant conventions that Denver hosts. For these contributions, Kay Rogness is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Navin Dimond is the founder of Stonebridge Companies, one of the nation’s leading hotel development and management companies, and serves as President and Chief Executive Officer, overseeing the company’s development, operations and investment functions. In June 2014, Navin and his wife Rita donated $1.5 million to Metropolitan State University of Denver, the largest contribution MSU has ever received. A significant portion of the gift will create the Dimond Fellowship Program, funding 10 student-fellows each year who are preparing for careers in the hospitality industry. In return for the gift, MSU named their hotel management program after the Dimonds. The Rita and Navin Dimond Hotel Management Program at MSU Denver's Hospitality Learning Center is the first of its kind in the Rocky Mountain West. It includes a 150-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel; a 28,000-square-foot hospitality learning center and a 5,000-square-foot conference center. In addition to this wonderful gift, Navin Dimond has a long history of adding to Denver’s hotel inventory, capped by the opening in the summer of 2014 of the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center, a 230-room hotel built in the lovingly preserved 1915 Colorado National Bank Building. The project not only saved the building, but also preserved 16 murals from the iconic western muralist Allen Tupper True. The hotel showcases historic elements from the building’s original construction in the early 20th century, juxtaposed with the accommodations, amenities and comforts of a modern luxury hotel. For these contributions, Navin Dimond is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
In the mid 1980s, after working in the Denver area for several years, the young, driven Larry DiPasquale took a major risk by launching Epicurean Group, an endeavor that promised little besides long hours and hard work. But his vision for the future, his fearless desire to change the way catering had been done in the past, and his long list of goals, including creating a better product for clients and a better work environment for employees, resulted in a dynamic and multi-faceted organization. Epicurean Group now acts as the premium concessionaire at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, exclusive event coordinator/caterer for The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, restaurateur/coordinator/caterer for Palazzo Verdi/Mangia Bevi, and is the preferred caterer at venues across the Front Range including properties in outlying mountain towns. Epicurean has fed thousands at The 2008 Democratic National Convention, Pope John Paul II, Julia Child, Oprah Winfrey and every president since the original George Bush, a list few in the industry can claim. DiPasquale still considers the nod from the White House in 1988 to coordinate and cater the prestigious Summit of the Eight, as well as being selected to oversee the inaugural international event, as a major career highlight. Epicurean Group, today the largest off-premise catering operation in the state of Colorado, employs more than 300 food service professionals who embrace DiPasqaule’s goals and who understand the importance of exceeding client expectations. DiPasquale's keen business sense, and his desire to empower those who work under his leadership, has resulted in a team he trusts to carry forth the vision he has for Epicurean. He has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including Small Business of the Year, Business Owner/Operator of the Year, Colorado Meetings & Events Lifetime Hall of Fame, Colorado Italian American Hall of Fame and the first caterer to be inducted into the Colorado Restaurant Hall of Fame. Epicurean Group is Denver’s only caterer to be registered “Colorado Proud” by the State Department of Agriculture and they meet all of the EPA requirements for green events. In addition to his significant business pursuits, Larry and his wife, Jill, are devoted to giving back to the community. In 2005, the DiPasquales and their business partner, Sharon Magness Blake, formed Epicurean Compassion to oversee and promote the company's charitable endeavors leading with The LRD Foundation, an education trust created to provide financial support to hospitality and culinary students. DiPasquale is intimately involved with We Don’t Waste, providing more than 100,000 meals to homeless since 2011. And in addition to his 20-plus years of supporting Volunteers of America, DiPasquale now volunteers the Epicurean Food Truck twice a month to feed Denver’s hungry and homeless. Larry DiPasquale credits his success to his own entrepreneurial spirit, a tool which has helped him recognize that same drive in others. He is adamant about filling Epicurean’s venues, offices, and kitchens with passionate team members who continually embody and display Epicurean Group’s five core values: Amazing Food, Stellar Service, Nurturing Community & Relationships, Always Going Above & Beyond, and Passion for our Clients. For his more than 30 years of excellence in providing Colorado catering, serving as a role model, and giving back to his community, Larry DiPasquale is honored as an inductee into Visit Denver’s Tourism Hall of Fame and celebrates his co-honorees.
Grace Gillette has been in charge of staging the Denver March Powwow, one of the country's largest Native American cultural events, for 30 years, more than half of its existence. Powwow events range from dancing in Plains tribe styles and drumming to storytelling and a craft show, mixed with booths selling original Native American art and foods. The Powwow attracts 52,000 attendees over the weekend, 1,600 dancers and 73 drum groups from nearly 80 tribes, and has focused Denver as a center for Native American culture and activities. Ms. Gillette belongs to the Arikara tribe. Growing up on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, she learned the native traditions that powwows try to perpetuate. Ms. Gillette's father, George, was chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), and had the life-time position of Tail Feather Carrier for the Arikara Tribe. This position has been passed on to her brother Russell. As a result, she has actively participated in the planning of numerous ceremonies and celebrations/dances her entire life. Ms. Gillette was named in the Denver Business Journal's "Who's Who in Denver Business.” She was also named in Strathmore's Who's Who, and more recently she was selected as one of “Denver’s 150," a special honor recognizing ordinary citizens who are making extraordinary contributions to the Mile High City commemorating Denver’s 150th Birthday. In December 2012, the American Indian College Fund named her "Elder of the Year." Ms. Gillette is a graduate of Berea Foundation School, Berea, KY and Haskell Institute, Lawrence, KS. For keeping Denver’s deep Native American traditions alive and making them an integral part of the city’s tourism and visitor industry, Grace Gillette is to be inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
In 2014, Dick Monfort will enter his 17th season with the Rockies franchise, continuing his role as Owner/Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the Club. Dick and his brother Charlie grew up in Greeley, Colorado and in 2005, became the primary owners of the Colorado Rockies. Dick and Charlie have established the Rockies as a leading organization in the Rocky Mountain Region in both the sport and business of baseball. The Rockies led Major League Baseball in attendance the first seven seasons of the franchise and had a historic run in the 2007 season, winning 21 out of 22 games, leading to the franchise's first berth in the World Series. The Rockies continually place as one of the top tourist attractions in the Longwoods study, and they were the primary impetus behind the original development of LoDo and the current development of surrounding RiNo and Ballpark neighborhoods. With Dick’s leadership and vision the Rockies have made Coors Field one of the premiere sports stadiums in the world. New to Coors Field in 2014 will be The Rooftop, the largest outdoor sports terrace in America with a bar that is one mile high and fifty-two feet, 80 inches long. vFor his contribution to Denver at Coors Field and the spectacular contribution the Colorado Rockies have made to Denver’s tourism industry, Dick Monfort is to be inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.
Joe and Jeff Shoemaker
Joe Shoemaker and his son Jeff have been committed to the reclamation, enhancement and preservation of the South Platte River in Denver for 40 years. Joe founded The Greenway Foundation in 1974, and since 1982 Jeff has served as its Executive Director. Since it was founded, The Greenway Foundation has: Reclaimed the South Platte River and its tributaries from a virtual cesspool to a place of environmental and recreational pride Constructed more than 100 miles of hiking and biking trails Created more than 100 acres of parks and natural areas Designed and built numerous whitewater boat chutes Vastly improved the health of the South Platte River Watershed and its habitats Provided environmental education to more than 60,000 school children Employed more than 100 teenagers in youth employment programs Helped create more than $120 million of green improvements to the South Platte River and its tributaries, facilitating over $10 billion in residential and commercial development throughout the Denver Metro area Joe will receive the award posthumously for his great contribution in having the vision to see what the South Platte could become. When he founded The Greenway Foundation, the South Platte was an eyesore, polluted, lined with garbage and completely devoid of any recreational opportunities. Joe was a graduate of the United States Naval Acadamy and the University of Iowa Law School. He was Denver’s Manager of Public Works and Deputy Mayor under Mayor Dick Batteron, a Colorado State Senator from 1926-1976 and a practicing attorney for over 50 years. Jeff is a graduate of Denver Public Schools and the University of Colorado. He was a public school teacher from 1977-1982, served as a member of the Colorado Legislature from 1987-1992 and was appointed to two terms on the CSU Board of Trustees from 1999-2008. For their commitment to the revitalization of the South Platte River and enhancing the popular tourist neighborhoods of LoDo, LoHi, Riverfront, Ballpark and RiNo, The Greenway Foundation’s founder and director, Joe and Jeff Shoemaker, are being inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
The legendary (nearly mythical, according to the Denver post) rock promoter Barry Fey, helped turn live music into a brand pillar for Denver and Colorado tourism by making Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre one of the most famous music venues in the world. Fey also played an important role in helping to save the Denver Symphony and to create the new Colorado Symphony Orchestra. In 1967, at just 27 years old, he began his extraordinary career as one of rock’s most important promoters by booking Big Brother & The Holding Company, featuring lead singer Janis Joplin into Denver’s Family Dog Concert Hall. His company, Feyline, transformed the "Summer of Stars" concert series at Red Rocks into a top "bucket list" event for music lovers all over the world. He has produced more top grossing tours for the Who and the Rolling Stones than anyone else in the world, and he was behind the U2 Under a Blood Red Sky concert video at Red Rocks, a music video that helped the amphitheatre and Denver gain international fame. He also played a role in saving the Paramount Theatre from destruction and helped bring the Colorado Rockies to Denver. Fey published his first acclaimed book, "Backstage Past" in November 2011, which features behind-the-scenes stories from his 40 year history in the music industry.
Dr. Lewis Sharp came to the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in 1989, after serving as curator and administrator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to 1989. Under his leadership, the DAM was totally transformed to become the most important art center in the Rocky Mountain West and one of the principal art museums in America. During his tenure, the DAM drew approximately 500,000 visitors each year and was touted by USA Today as one of the "10 Great Places to Introduce Children to Art." Dr. Sharp substantially increased the museum's collections and improved the educational activities. One of his continuing legacies has been the museum's increased focus on major touring exhibitions such as "Toulouse-Lautrec from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," "Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums," and the blockbuster, "El Greco to Picasso from the The Phillips Collection." Sharp also had a tremendous influence on shaping the national and international image of Denver through his leadership on the Daniel Libeskind designed Frederic C. Hamilton Building, which elevated Denver's reputation as a cultural destination. The expansion was completed through a city bond initiative approved by Denver voters in 1999, while the museum raised another $28 million in private funds to cover additional expansion projects. Dr. Sharp was instrumental in both helping pass the initiative and in raising the private funds. He also helped lift the museum's stature through a landmark donation of funding, artwork and property from Kent and Vicki Logan, the largest planned gift in the Museum's history. Lewis Sharp retired at the end of 2009, but his legacy and contributions live on at the Denver Art Museum with recent blockbuster exhibits such as "Yves St. Laurent: The Retrospective" and "Becoming Van Gogh."
Sid Wilson has operated A Private Guide for 20 years, becoming one of the best known and most beloved guides and entrepreneurs in Denver's tourism industry. Besides serving more than 10 years on the VISIT DENVER Board of Directors, Wilson is a trustee for the Denver Zoo, recent past Commissioner for the Denver Public Library, founding member and past board chair of Beckwourth Outdoors (aka the James P. Beckwourth Mountain Club), the Black American West Museum, and the Plains Conservation Center. Wilson's contributions often take place behind the scenes, where he has worked for years to bring new people into the travel industry. He is a senior instructor at the International Guide Academy and has worked in numerous school projects with student groups, where he has long been a proponent of kids working in travel and tourism. He was both a board member and a chair of NAF / Academy of Hospitality and Tourism set up with Denver Public Schools to encourage high school students to pursue careers in tourism. For over ten years he has worked with Beckwourth Outdoors, preparing and exposing inner-city youth to their first skiing, hiking and a variety of mountain based recreation activities. Research had shown that many youth who get into trouble with authorities have never been to the mountains. Beckwourth Outdoors was created to right that situation, and Sid has literally changed the lives of hundreds of youths by introducing them to Colorado tourism and mountain experiences. As he has stated, Wilson has been able to take experiences and contacts from powerful boards like VISIT DENVER, the Denver Zoo and the Denver Public Library Commission, and use that knowledge to help other smaller boards like the Black American West Museum, Beckwourth Outdoors and the Plains Conservation Center.
One of the world's best-known and most-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. John Denver was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1974, and in 2007, the Colorado State Legislature paid him the highest 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.
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, 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.
Peter M. Meersman
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, helping 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 $8.5 billion in annual sales and employ more than 237,000 workers. Four out of every ten retail workers are employed at one of Colorado’s 10,400 restaurants. In 2012, consumers will spend $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. He helped start the CRA Education Foundation's award-winning ProStart program which supports high school students interested in hospitality careers. He spear-headed two “Dine Out to Help Out” fund-raisers, which brought Colorado restaurants together to raise money for victims in the aftermath of September 11th tragedy and Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Meersman led the charge to fight the Denver-only minimum wage and paid leave battles in 1993 and 2011. CRA has been on the frontlines of water and energy conservation for more than a decade. For almost 30 years, Meersman’s name has been linked to the restaurant industry in Colorado. He also has been one of the top figures in generating funding for marketing Colorado as a tourism destination. He lobbied to resurrect funding for the Colorado Tourism Office, helping to establish the organization in its early years, and then became the organization’s chairman. He has served as chair of the International Society of Restaurant Association Executives. He serves on the Visit Denver board. And he serves on the National Restaurant Association and NRA Educational Foundation boards of directors.
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 Brewers Association in Boulder for homebrewers, it was actually illegal to operate a brewpub in Colorado. How times have changed – in large part due to Charlie Papazian’s efforts. Today, Colorado produces more beer than any other state, the Denver metro area produces more beer than any other city, and Denver’s Great American Beer Festival (started by Charlie Papazian and run by the Brewers Association with his continued guidance) has grown to be the largest beer festival in the world with some 2,400 beers available for tasting in 2011. Charlie Papazian deserves much of the credit for creating the craft beer 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), The New Brewer (the magazine for small, professional craft brewers) and National Beer Examiner for Denver based Examiner.com. In his worldwide travels, Papazian has been both lecturer and presenter at many prestigious events. He is author of five best-selling books (1,200,000+ copies) published by HarperCollins Books.
Cleo Parker Robinson
Cleo Parker Robinson is founder, executive artistic director and choreographer of the 40-year-old artistic institution, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, based in Denver. She has taught and performed with her Ensemble in such diverse places as Iceland, Singapore, Hawaii, Nassau, Belize, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, throughout Europe, and on all four corners of the African continent. People of all ages and backgrounds have participated in her workshops and master classes. As the founder of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance she leads a professional dance Ensemble, Youth Ensemble, a School of Dance, an International Summer Dance Institute, a 300-seat theatre that bears her name, and a myriad of community outreach programs. Her philosophy of "One Spirit, Many Voices" is reflected in all that she does, and is the vision she brings to everyone she meets, everywhere she goes. In 1974, she received the Colorado's Governor's Award for Excellence, and in 1989, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. President Clinton appointed her in 1998 to the National Council on the Arts, where she served until 2005. Throughout her amazing career, she has been an unwavering supporter of her native city, Denver. In addition to her own accomplishments, she has advanced the arts in Denver - and the worldwide perception of Denver as a city of rich and diverse culture. For her many contributions to Denver's artistic legacy, she is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Governor Bill Ritter
Governor, State of Colorado (2007-20011)
Bill Ritter, Jr. was elected as Colorado's 41st governor in 2006 - the first Colorado-born governor in more than 35 years. In office, he implemented a 21st century strategy for leading Colorado forward, positioning the state for a strong future. Governor Ritter was always a strong supporter of tourism, working hard to maintain funding for the Colorado Tourism Office. Whether herding cattle in the National Western Stock Show Parade in Denver, or biking over mountain passes in the Triple Bypass, Governor Ritter was an avid promoter of Colorado's tourism industry, recreational opportunities and outdoor lifestyle. He was instrumental in working with Lance Armstrong to create the first Quiznos Pro Challenge, which will electrify pro cycling in Colorado in August 2011. Governor Ritter established Colorado as a national and international leader in the New Energy Economy; attracted thousands of new jobs in knowledge-based industries of the future, such as aerospace, biosciences and technology, and initiated sweeping education reforms. To keep tourism infrastructure strong, he introduced the FASTER transportation legislation to fix unsafe bridges and roads and create a framework for funding a modern, 21st century transportation system. For strongly defending tourism marketing and helping the travel industry in countless ways, Governor Ritter is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Terry Sullivan has been a leading force in Colorado tourism for twenty years, one of the longest spans of anyone in the state's history. He became the leader of Experience Colorado Springs, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, in 1990, first as executive director and later as president & CEO. The local member-based organization is charged with promoting Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region as a national and international tourism destination. Over his 20 year span, Terry helped tourism in Colorado Springs grow to a $1.2 billion industry that supports 14,000 jobs. Under his leadership, Experience Colorado Springs won many national awards, including ten years of winning the "Gold Service Award" from Meetings & Conventions Magazine. Terry was also a leader in developing the Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Associations (CADMO) and the Travel Industry Association of Colorado (TIAC). It was with his assistance that the Colorado tourism industry learned to "speak with one voice," eventually leading to the creation of the Colorado Tourism Office and increased tourism marketing dollars for the state. In 2005, Terry Sullivan was honored with the Governor's Tourism Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Colorado Tourism. For being a good partner to Denver and for his two decades of dedication to Colorado's travel industry, Terry Sullivan is being honored as a member of the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
PAT BOWLEN is being inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame for presiding over one of the NFL’s most successful franchises, bringing Denver national and international recognition, television exposure and millions of dollars of economic development. Pat Bowlen entered the 2009 season in his 26th year as President and CEO of the Denver Broncos, and is quarterplus century of ownership is indelibly stamped as one of the most successful periods for any team in National Football League history. enver ranks second in the NFL in regular-season wins (251), second in Super Bowl appearances (5), tied for third in conference championship game appearances (7) and tied for fifth in playoff appearances (13) during Bowlen’s tenure. The Broncos have sold out every regular season and playoff game since 1970, and the team has draw over 18 million fans to their home games from 1984-2009, marking the highest total in the NFL. Bowlen’s status and reputation as an owner were recognized within the state on April 10, 2007, when he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
CURTIS FENTRESS designed three of the most important landmarks in Denver, transforming the skyline and elevating the world’s opinion of this great city. Denver International Airport was voted “Best Airport in North America” the past four consecutive years. Fentress designed the Colorado Convention Center, winner of 18 design awards. INVESCO Field at Mile High has become the beloved new home of the Denver Broncos. Fentress was recently selected as the architect for the new Colorado Judicial Center adjacent to the State Capitol. Internationally recognized for his innovative portfolio, Fentress has created $22 billion of architectural projects worldwide, visited by over 300 million people annually. His designs have been featured in more than 1,200 national and international publications and honored with over 300 awards for excellence and innovation. Fentress designed Incheon International Airport in South Korea, consistently voted “World’s Best Airport,” and Arraya Tower in Kuwait, the world’s tenth tallest building built in 2009. Curtis Fentress will be honored by the American Institute of Architects in 2010 as the recipient of the highest award for public architecture, the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award.
WALTER ISENBERG has a long history of providing both outstanding service at his hotels, and exceptional community service to his city. Isenberg and his partner, Zack Neumeyer founded Sage Hospitality in 1984. Sage owns and operates 54 hotels in 23 states ranging from urban full-service hotels to select service suburban properties. Mr. Isenberg directs company operations including property management, development and finance. Sage is consistently recognized for its significant commitment to corporate citizenship. Sage was the first recipient of Marriott’s Spirit to Serve Award, given to franchise partners that live the vision to be an outstanding corporate citizen. Sage has lead the industry with its green operating practices and has developed both LEED Silver and Gold hotels. Walter Isenberg is a member of the American Hotel Lodging Association’s Government Affairs Committee and serves on the boards of The Downtown Denver Partnership; VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau (where he was a former chairman); Colorado Concern; The Children’s Hospital Foundation; Mountain States Employers Council; Starwood Hotels and Marriott International’s Owner Advisory Councils.
In the 1960s, award-winning preservationist Dana Crawford was the first to look at the abandoned and neglected buildings of Denver’s original main street and lower downtown (LoDo) and see the possibilities of their transformation for the city. She initiated a new concept of urban renewal, one of the first of its kind in the United States, saving the beautiful historic buildings of Larimer Square and transforming them into a festive marketplace. Since then, she has redeveloped more than one million square feet of historic property in Denver, including The Oxford Hotel, Acme Lofts, the Edbrooke Lofts, Cooper Flats Condominiums and phase one of the Flour Mill Lofts project. In each case, Crawford preserved the historic architecture and character of Denver while bringing new life and excitement to the city center.
During his tenure with Hyatt Hotels, John Schafer has enjoyed one of the longest and most distinguished hotel careers in Denver’s history. He has been chair of the Bureau, served on the Colorado Tourism Board and has been a representative of the hospitality community on virtually every board and commission in the city for the past decade. Schafer was a leader in the separate campaigns to expand the Colorado Convention Center, to build a 1,100-room headquarters hotel and to secure more tourism marketing funds for the Bureau. In 1997, Schafer was named the national Hyatt hotel chain’s General Manager of the Year – an honor he received again in 2007, making him the only general manager in Hyatt’s history to ever win twice.
Mayor Robert W. Speer
Mayor, City & County of Denver (1904-1916)
Robert W. Speer was probably more responsible for transforming Denver into a City Beautiful and the state’s top tourist attraction than any other person. As mayor, he literally changed Denver from brown to green with the planting of 110,000 shade trees throughout the city on redesigned broad boulevards. He doubled the City park system, creating Washington Park, Sloan’s Lake and City Park and personally redesigned the sunken flow path for Cherry Creek that later allowed for the bike-path system. His vision of Civic Center Park brought in fountains, a Greek Amphitheatre and monuments. He created the mountain park system that led to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Winter Park Ski Area and Buffalo Bill’s Grave, and also led the drive to build the Auditorium Theatre. During his administration, the National Western Stock Show was born; Denver hosted the first Democratic National Convention, and VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau was created – only the sixth convention bureau in the world. Mayor Speer died while serving the city he loved from influenza that he caught walking to work in the rain.
The Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth
Elbra Wedgeworth will forever be linked with the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC) that generated $266 million of economic impact and hundreds of millions of dollars in worldwide publicity. Wedgeworth provided the vision and leadership to bring the 2008 DNC to Denver. She served as the president/chair of the Board of the Host committee, which raised nearly $70 million and was responsible for overseeing every aspect of staging of what would become the largest event in the city’s history. Wedgeworth began her career with the City & County of Denver in 1989 and was elected to Denver City Council, District 8 in 1999, serving as a council representative on the Bureau’s Board of Directors. Recognizing the importance of tourism, she was a leader in the effort to secure more marketing dollars for the Bureau and in the campaigns to expand the Colorado Convention Center and build a headquarters hotel. She served as a member of the Denver Hotel Authority Board of Directors, which oversaw construction of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In September 2008, she was elected chairperson of the Denver Union Station Authority Board of Directors.
An unwavering supporter of conventions, travel and tourism, Noel has used his success in the restaurant industry to work as one of the Mile High City’s greatest philanthropists and humanitarians. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he became the youngest-ever sous chef in London’s famous Savoy Hotel. In the mid-1970s he moved stateside and in 1986, he opened the popular Denver restaurant Strings. Some of the many projects Noel has started include Quarters for Kids, which began 14 years ago to teach children about local hunger and homeless issues and has raised more than $500,000. With his wife Tammy, Noel founded the Cunningham Foundation in 2003 and has made numerous trips to Africa to assist with self-help programs and community development in Ethiopia.
A living legend in Denver’s tourism business, Pat Lee has amassed a record for promoting Denver and Colorado as leisure destinations unequaled by anyone else. From 1972 until 1989, she worked for Aspen Airways (later to be known as United Express), eventually rising to vice president of marketing. During this period, she helped the airline grow to become the third largest air carrier in Denver at that time. From 1989 to 1996, Pat served as director of destination marketing & regional sales manager for Continental Airlines. Today her company represents tourism sales for one of the city’s top tourist attractions, Cherry Creek Shopping Center, as well as numerous other tourism projects, including the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Governor Bill Owens
Governor, State of Colorado (1999-2007)
Governor Owens has raised more money for Colorado tourism promotion than anyone else. As Colorado’s 40th governor, he served from January 1999 until term-limited in January 2007. Throughout his administration, he was recognized as a leader in obtaining funds for tourism marketing for the Colorado Tourism Office, especially in the years where no permanent funding existed. His efforts on behalf of the tourism industry culminated in 2006 with his leadership of House Bill 1201, which now provides $19 million for tourism marketing annually, creating the largest travel marketing budget in Colorado history. He was also a leader in Colorado’s transportation system, providing leadership for projects such as T-REX. In 2002, National Review Magazine called Bill Owens “the best governor in America.”
A respected leader in Colorado's travel industry, Ilene Kamsler has been president of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association and director of the Metro Denver Hotel Association since 1986, representing 540 members and more than 40,000 guest rooms. Over the years, she has been a constant voice calling for state funding for tourism marketing. Working tirelessly at various legislative levels as well as trying to bring tourism factions together to speak with one voice, she finally saw these efforts rewarded in 2006 with the passage of House Bill 1201, which will guarantee permanent funding for the Colorado Tourism Office. She has also been the president of the Colorado Society of Association Executives, the Tourism Industry Coalition of Colorado and the International Society of Hotel Association Executives.
For more than 11 years, Jack Vickers tried to obtain the rolling, pine-covered hills near Castle Rock to create a world-class golf course hosting a major professional tournament. His persistence paid off in the late 1970s when he purchased a 5,000 acre tract of land, hired Jack Nicklaus to design the course and in 1981 opened Castle Pines Golf Club. In 1986, Castle Pines was given a spot on the PGA Tour hosting The INTERNATIONAL. Twenty-one years later, The INTERNATIONAL has become one of Denver’s major events, attracting more than 100,000 fans as well as national and international television coverage. The INTERNATIONAL has been a strong supporter of Denver tourism, providing air time for a Denver commercial to be seen around the world by millions of viewers, in addition to exposing the beauty of golf in this region.
Mayor Wellington Webb
Mayor, City & County of Denver (1991-2003)
Former Mayor Wellington Webb was intimately involved in every step of developing Denver into a tier-one convention and leisure destination, from building Denver International Airport, to approving the Colorado Convention Center expansion, opening two new sports stadiums, approving and building the new convention center hotel, expanding the Denver Art Museum, building the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and much more. Mayor Webb created more park space than any other Denver mayor and under his administration, downtown Denver was revitalized with new housing, restaurants and shopping. In 1993, Mayor Webb hosted nearly 350,000 people from around the world for World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II and in 1997, he welcomed President Clinton and eight world leaders at the Denver Summit of the Eight.
As president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show, Pat has helped make this event one of the world’s largest stock shows and rodeos and the largest single annual event in Denver with more than 400,000 paid admissions. The Stock Show attracts visitors and huge economic development in a month that would normally be a very down time for the city. Pat has continually worked to "re-invent" the Stock Show, bringing in new events and shows to keep it fresh. Under his guidance, the Stock Show has maintained its historical Western roots, while bringing in such popular new acts as the Wild West Show, Mexican Rodeo and Evening of Dancing Horses. In 2006, the Stock Show will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary with a series of special events that will set a new bar for this important Denver institution.
E. Stanley Kroenke
Stanley Kroenke has brought more sporting events – and more sports-related tourism – to Denver than any other single person. As the owner of Pepsi Center, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth and Colorado Crush, he is the premier sports figure in Denver. These teams and a new sports television network have helped position Denver as the No. 1 sports city in America. He helped bring three All-Star games and the Centrix Financial Grand Prix to Denver and has even entered into the arts, by bringing Cirque du Soleil to the Mile High City and by purchasing the Paramount Theatre. Kroenke’s enthusiasm and vision ensure that Pepsi Center will continue to be the top entertainment tourism destination in the Rocky Mountains for generations to come.
Daniel L. Ritchie
Daniel L. Ritchie was the 16th chancellor of the University of Denver and is one of the strongest leaders in creating a link between higher education and the tourism industry. Prominent in Denver's civic and cultural community, Ritchie has proved a strong advocate for the University of Denver, where he was chancellor from July 1989 - June 2005. His persuasion has been instrumental in bringing major gifts to DU and in establishing DU as a center for tourism research and studies. In 2005, under Ritchie’s leadership, DU opened the new Center for Travel & Tourism, which will serve as an academic research center. Ritchie has been instrumental in developing DU as both a meeting and cultural destination. He also helped play a role in securing the Frozen Four tournament for Denver in 2008, which will be one of the city’s major sporting events.
"Food historian, chef de cuisine, journalist, world traveler, restauranteur, raconteur…Sam Arnold is a gold mine of information." - Time-Life Books. These words accurately describe Sam P. Arnold, co-owner of the renowned Fort Restaurant, a castle-like replica of the 1834 Bent’s Fort (Colorado’s first fur-trading post). Visitors looking for a unique culinary experience can find it at The Fort, enjoying unique fare such as buffalo, elk, rattlesnake, quail and venison. Sam has written several books on Colorado cuisine and has appeared on the Tonight Show, the Today Show, CNN, ABC, NBC News, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, all promoting Colorado cuisine. In 1997, he hosted President Clinton’s state dinner during the Summit of the Eight. Sam has served on the Colorado Tourism Board and on the board of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and is honored for his many contributions to Colorado’s tourism industry.
Phil Karsh has been a long-time advocate and marketer of Denver and Colorado tourism and one of the key figures in Colorado tourism advertising. As Chairman of Karsh & Hagan Communications for 13 years, he was at the forefront of every major Colorado tourism advertising campaign. His agency’s award-winning ad campaigns for the Colorado Tourism Board helped give Colorado the number one market share as a summer tourism destination. Phil has been on the board of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau since 1993, and served as Bureau Chairman in 1997. Since 2002, he has served as the Chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Foundation, which awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in hospitality and tourism. A tireless promoter of the economic benefits of tourism and of the need to market Colorado tourism, Phil Karsh has been a principal leader in the effort to obtain additional tourism marketing dollars for Colorado.
Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds
Denver City Councilwoman (1975-2003)
Former Denver City Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds is an institution in Denver polititcs. In 1975, she was one of the first two women elected to Denver government and she was elected to be City Council President an impressive five times. As a member of the Special Projects Committee, she was instrumental in approving and building the original Colorado Convention Center. Cathy believed that the Center should be located in the heart of downtown and fought for its current location at 14th & California St. In 1997, she was one of the first to agree that the time was right to double the size of the center and she worked diligently to ensure that the expansion received voter approval in November 1999. She is still actively involved as a board member of the Convention Center Hotel Authority. Her other contributions on the Special Projects Committee include the development of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver International Airport, Pepsi Center and the development of the 16th Street Mall.
Ray Baker has been instrumental in changing the face of Denver’s sports scene. He served as the chair of both the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District and the Denver Metropolitan Football District Stadium, helping to ensure that both stadiums were completed on time and on budget. In 1986, he and former professional basketball player Bill Harnzlik started the Gold Crown Foundation. The nonprofit group began with about 150 kids at a basketball camp. Today, more than 20,000 kids participate in Gold Crown Foundation programs and it has become one of the largest junior high basketball leagues in the state. In 1998, Gold Crown opened the Coca-Cola All Star Park in Lakewood, an athletic field for kids that is a mini-replica of Coors Field. Ray Baker has left his mark on the Mile High City, both in helping children realize the values that come from athletic competition, and in changing the landscape of the city with two of the nation’s most beautiful sports facilities.
John Bandimere Jr.
For the past 33 years, John Bandimere, Jr. has been the driving force behind the successful and popular Bandimere Speedway. Voted one of the five best race tracks in the country by Drag Racing Magazine, Bandimere Speedway has been the site of many national racing events and the host of the NHRA/POWERade Mopar Mile High Nationals for the past 24 years. John Jr. took over as president and general manager from his father, the Speedway’s founder, in 1970 and has overseen many improvements, including a $4.5 million renovation in 1988. Today, the Speedway hosts both automotive and non-automotive events for adults and kids virtually seven days a week. In 1998, John Jr. continued the tradition by passing general manager duties to a third generation, John C. Bandimere III, allowing John Jr. more time to focus on vital community issues and further promotion of the facility. John Jr. currently is involved with the Guaranty Bank West Advisory Board, West Chamber Serving Jefferson County, National Hot Rod Association, Fellowship of Christian Athletes State Board, Cherry Hills Community Church and the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame Board.
In 1979, Will McFarlane moved the corporate headquarters of AIRCOA to Denver. He had founded the company in 1968 to develop and operate motels, hotels, restaurants and numerous other real estate projects. Less than a decade after moving to Denver, AIRCOA had become the largest independent hotel and resort management company in the U.S., operating 167 hotels. AIRCOA was the largest franchisee of Sheraton Hotels and the second largest Hilton Hotel franchisee. AIRCOA created the Clarion chain and owned and operated such hotels as the Brown Palace. In 1990, Will sold AIRCOA to Regal Hotels of Hong Kong and with several partners he bought a 14,000-acre ranch in eastern Colorado to breed American buffalo. He established the 22,000 square foot Denver Buffalo Company Restaurant and Trading Post in Denver and started New West Foods, which is today the largest buffalo and game marketing company in the U.S. In addition to his many hotel and restaurant contributions to Denver, he served two terms as chairman of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, helping to lead them out of bankruptcy and into a stable financial condition. He served as a trustee to Denver University and as been a member of virtually every board in Denver from the Colorado Tourism Board and the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau to the Downtown Denver Partnership and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. He is truly one of the great leaders and pioneers of Colorado’s hospitality industry.
A. Barry Hirschfeld
It would be hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to Denver’s travel industry than A. Barry Hirschfeld. Barry first joined the Board of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1985, taking the seat of his deceased father Ed Hirschfeld, who is also a member of the Tourism Hall of Fame. Barry is one of the few people to have served two terms as chairman of the Bureau (1989-1990) and one of the first to be honored as a Lifetime Board member. Although Barry has been involved in literally dozens of projects for the Bureau, he provided the leadership for five crucial programs. While Barry was chairman, he twice led the movement to increase the Bureau’s portion of the lodger’s tax, resulting in a quarter percent increase in 1991 and another quarter percent increase the next year. He played a crucial role in the movement to build the Colorado Convention Center, but perhaps more important, he secured the marketing dollar grants that allowed the new center to be properly promoted in its early years. Barry also led the contingent that secured the first marketing dollar grants from the city for the highly successful Destination Denver program. This public/private marketing program has now grown to a $3 million annual budget. Finally, he led the Bureau’s relocation committee that not only helped save The Denver Dry Goods Building, but also secured very favorable office accommodations for the Bureau for the past decade. More than anyone else, Barry has been responsible for securing strong funding for Denver tourism promotion. Without this funding, Denver would not be enjoying the vital, healthy economy that it does today. Barry’s father, Ed Hirschfeld, was inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame in 2000.
Karl W. Mehlmann
For more than 40 years, Karl W. Mehlmann has been an outstanding leader of Colorado’s hospitality industry and one of the nation’s strongest advocates for furthering education in the lodging industry. He began his 44-year career with The Brown Palace Hotel in 1940. After eleven years in executive positions, he was named vice president and general manager in 1963, president of The Brown Palace Hotel Company in 1966 and made chairman in 1983. With his dedication to the highest standards of traditional service, mixed with innovative management, he led The Brown Palace to become one of the premier hotels in the United States. An active civic and community leader, he served as chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and was made a lifetime board member. He is a past president of the Greater Denver Hotel Association, a past president and lifetime director of the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association and has twice received the CH&LA’s highest honor as “Hotelier of the Year.” Nationally, he served on many committees and was a director of the American Hotel and Motel Association for six years. The Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association named their scholarship program the Karl W. Mehlmann Scholarship as a tribute to his continuing leadership in the hotel industry and as recognition of his dedication to providing education for those entering the industry.
Allan and Gerald Phipps
Without the Phipps brothers, 1964 might have been one of the blackest years in Denver’s history. The rag-tag AFL Denver Broncos had lost 11 games and were about to be sold and moved to Atlanta. And then the Phipps brothers came to the rescue. “Denver couldn’t afford to lose pro football,” Gerald told the Denver Post. “Sports franchises are valuable to a well-rounded city.” So they bought the team. The next year they sold 22,000 season tickets. By 1970, they were selling 43,500 season tickets and starting a tradition of sellouts that continues today. Under the Phipps leadership, the 34,000-seat Bears Stadium was acquired by the City, re-named Mile High Stadium and increased to 76,000-seats. The Broncos ended their first decade as the worst of any of the original eight AFL teams. But under the Phipps, they had their first winning season in 1973, starting a trend that saw them fall below the .500 mark only three times in the next 20 seasons.
When Gerald Phipps passed away in 1993, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said, “If it wasn’t for Gerald Phipps, none of us now with the Broncos would have a job. He saved the Broncos and set the course for Denver as the sports city that it is today. He was a wonderful, wonderful man to whom the entire state owes a great debt.”
Adolph Coors and the Coors Family
Adolph Coors arrived in Denver in 1872. At that time, Colorado was filled with young men searching the hills for gold, but Adolph went out in search of a different treasure – water. In the Clear Creek Valley just east of Golden, he found what he was looking for – a series of cool, natural springs that would be perfect for brewing beer. Today, Coors Brewery has annual sales exceeding 20 million barrels and the Coors brewery in Golden is the largest single brewing site on earth. Equally important, Coors has become the most identified Colorado company in the world. From the beginning, Coors advertised that it was produced with Rocky Mountain spring water. Images of Colorado’s mountains have been used in their advertising for more than 100 years, promoting the outstanding beauty of this region to people throughout the United States and around the globe.
Mayor Federico Peña
Mayor, City & County of Denver (1983-1991)
Federico Peña was Mayor of the City of Denver in the pivotal years of 1983 to 1991, a time when the city’s tourism industry experienced unparalleled growth. During Mayor Peña’s administration, Denver’s tourism industry saw the building and opening of the Colorado Convention Center, the approval and construction of Denver International Airport (DEN), the approval of Coors Field and the revitalization of downtown Denver. When it opened in 1990, the Colorado Convention Center tripled the size of Denver’s convention facilities. At the time, it was the tenth largest convention facility in America. Denver International Airport was the first major international airport constructed in the United States since Dallas-Fort Worth in 1974. DEN has become an unqualified success and was recently selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top five airports in America.
Edward A. Robinson
Edward A. Robinson is the longest serving active member on the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. He was one of the first Denver businessmen to realize the strong connection between tourism and all industries in Colorado. “When tourism does well, we have more people in the hotels and our out-of-town guests drink milk and eat dairy products too,” he says. Realizing the importance of tourism to Denver’s overall economy, Ed Robinson has been a strong supporter of the industry throughout his career. He served as the chairman of the Bureau and has been a member and a chair of many tourism committees. Equaling his participation with the Bureau has been his devotion to one of Denver’s top tourist attractions, the Denver Zoo. He served on the Zoo’s Board of Trustees since 1987 and was their President in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In 1993, Ed Robinson was inducted into the Colorado Restaurant Association Food Service Hall of Fame and in 2000 into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. He is one of the most beloved citizens of Denver and one of the most honored in the community.
Jerry Groswold is one of the fathers of Colorado’s tourism industry. The son of Colorado’s first manufacturer of alpine downhill ski equipment, he literally grew up on skis. He got his start in the industry as a water boy for volunteers cutting the first trails at Winter Park Resort, and skied there on opening day for the cost of one dollar. He obtained his law degree and joined the Winter Park Recreational Association in 1959, serving as chairman before being named as the resort’s first president and CEO in 1975, a position he held for twenty-two years. During this time, he oversaw one of the largest ski expansions in Colorado history with the building of Mary Jane, the development of the then largest snowmaking installation and the addition of summer resort programs. He was also instrumental in establishing the National Sports Center for the Disabled and the Winter Park Nordic Jumping School.
The Gurtler Family of Elitch Gardens
“Not to See Elitch’s Is Not to See Denver.” For more than 100 years, that was the slogan of what was often called “America’s Most Distinctive Amusement Park.” Mary and John Elitch originally opened the park in 1890 as a zoo and gardens. In 1910, ownership and management of the park was transferred to the Gurtler Family, who were to own and operate Elitch’s for the next nine decades. Three generations of the Gurtler family managed Elitch’s, transforming it into one of the top attractions of its kind in the world. Under the Gurtler’s, Elitch’s added the Tracadero, one of the nation’s most famous ballrooms. In its 50-year history, the Tracadero hosted every famous band in America including The Dorseys, Lawrence Welk, Gene Krupa, Harry James and Guy Lombardo. Live broadcasts were carried on KOA throughout the West, making Elitch’s synonymous with Denver. Another Gurtler innovation was to make the Elitch Summer Theatre the longest running summer theatre program in American history. Grace Kelly made her debut here, and nearly every big name from Hollywood and Broadway made an appearance at Elitch’s. From the creation of Twister, at one time rated the top wooden roller coaster in America, to the famous gardens and floral clock, three generations of the Gurtler’s put their stamp on Elitch’s and on Denver. Arnold and Marie Gurtler originally managed the park, and were followed by their two sons, Jack and Budd after World War II. Sandy Gurtler took over in 1985, overseeing Elitch’s last great transformation: the move to the Central Platte Valley. Elitch’s has long been a Mile High tradition and one of the top tourist attractions in Denver and Colorado.
Ed Hirschfeld is one of the few people in the 90 year history of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau to serve two terms as chairman, from 1968-1970. This was a pivotal time for the Bureau, and Hirschfeld rose to the challenge. Under his direction, the Bureau was essentially re-invented with new staff, new logos and new marketing programs. He cemented a strong relationship between the Mayor, City Council and the Bureau’s Board of Directors. Under his leadership, the Bureau worked with the hotels to petition the city to create a new lodger’s tax that would be used to fund the Bureau’s programs. Hirschfeld was the key person in getting this critical lodger’s tax instituted in Denver in 1971. Although he is best known as a giant in the printing industry and president of Hirschfeld Press, he played one of the most influential roles in developing the modern era of tourism promotion for Denver.
Joy Burns was the first woman chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and the founder and developer of the Burnsley Hotel, which opened in 1985. A leader in both the local and national tourism industry, she was a founding member and former director of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. She is also the founder, director and has served as a vice chair of the Colorado Business Bank; president of the Sportswomen of Colorado Foundation; and the first woman to chair the Board of Trustees of the University of Denver since its inception in 1864.
Jerry Gart was an avid sportsman and vigorous promoter of Denver and Colorado skiing and recreation. As chairman of the board of the Gart Bros. Sporting Goods Company, he was one of the leaders in forging a partnership between Colorado’s ski areas and Denver businesses, helping spread tourism dollars to all aspects of Colorado’s economy. A tireless promoter of Colorado’s beauty and recreation, he also served as chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and was active in the National Sporting Goods Association, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Center for Performing Arts.
Donald R. Seawell
Donald Seawell is the founder and chairman of the Tony-award winning Denver Center for the Performing Arts. His lifelong fascination with the theatre has included work as an attorney representing Noel Coward, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne and Tallulah Bankhead; a producer of plays including A Thurber Carnival and Noel Coward’s Sail Away; and chairman of the American National Theatre and Academy. He sketched the original plan for what was to become the Denver Performing Arts Complex on the back of an envelope and was instrumental in every aspect of its creation, from funding to design. Today, it is the largest performing arts complex in the nation with a seating capacity second only to New York’s Lincoln Center. Denver Center Theatre Company productions have toured the world and won a Tony in 1998 for best regional theater. With a paid attendance of over one million in 1997, Denver’s performing arts complex is recognized as the most active center between Chicago and the West Coast.
As the president of Metro Stadium, Inc., Larry led the charge to expand Mile High Stadium, saving the Broncos for Denver. As chairman of the Denver for Sports Arena Committee, he led the movement to build McNichols Sports Arena. He was instrumental in bringing the NCAA Final Four to Denver as well as the Colorado Rockies. His association with sports goes all the way back to 1949 when he was selected as Basketball Coach of the Year by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. He is a member of four sports halls of fame including the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, where he has also been on the board for 26 years. A two-term chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, he also worked for more than 30 years as the public affairs director of Central Bank of Denver.