Denver’s $5 billion tourism industry will honor some of its top leaders and innovators at the 19th Annual Tourism Industry Hall of Fame dinner on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
This year’s inductees to the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame are: the 24-year president and current chairman of the Broadmoor, Stephen Bartolin; retired longtime Denver City Councilman, Charlie Brown; and the immediate past president of Winter Park Resort, Gary DeFrange.
A special posthumous award will be presented to one of the most famous figures of Colorado’s hospitality industry, an escaped slave who came to Colorado in the gold rush and struck it rich opening a series of restaurants and hotels, Barney Ford.
The Tourism Hall of Fame serves as the highest honor for Denver’s travel industry – which registered its best year ever in 2016 with 17.3 million overnight visitors, generating more than $5 billion in spending. The industry supports more than 57,000 jobs in the metro area.
The gala is a fundraising event for the VISIT DENVER Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships to 332 Colorado students pursuing higher education in the fields of tourism and hospitality.
For ticket information, please contact Meagan Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.571.9405.
Stephen Bartolin, Jr. – Chairman, The Broadmoor
Stephen Bartolin, Jr. has had a legendary career at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where he served as president and CEO for 24 years, making him the longest serving president in The Broadmoor’s history. Starting there in 1991, after stints at the Greenbrier and the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Bartolin became the driving force behind The Broadmoor’s success and acclaim. During his tenure, Bartolin oversaw a $450 million expansion, upgrade and restoration project that allowed the property to keep the Five Star rating they were at risk of losing. Today, The Broadmoor is the longest running Five Star and Five Diamond rated property in North America and is one of the greatest icons in Colorado’s hospitality business.
In March 2015, he was named Chairman of The Broadmoor and its related businesses. He also serves as President of The Broadmoor-Sea Island Company. Bartolin was named 1997 Resort Executive of the Year, was recognized as the 2005 Colorado Hotelier of the Year, named Independent Hotelier of the Year by Hotels Magazine in 2010, and was named the 2013 CEO of the Year by Colorado Business Magazine.
The Broadmoor’s other tourism related businesses include The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, Seven Falls, Cloud Camp, The Ranch at Emerald Valley, The Broadmoor Fly Fishing Camp and The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure.
Denver Councilman Charlie Brown
Known as the “cowboy councilman,” Charlie Brown was first elected to the Denver City Council in May 2001 until he was tenured out of office in July 2015. Decked out in his signature western shirts, hat and bolo tie, Charlie Brown brought a moderate, business-oriented, common sense perspective to the 13-member council. As a voice for fiscal moderation, Councilman Brown worked hard to ensure that Denver continued to be a great place to live, work and raise a family – and welcome tourists. Charlie represented the Council on the VISIT DENVER Board of Directors for 14 years.
He was a strong backer of the Colorado Convention Center, the expansion of the center and the 2015 ballot initiative 2C, which increased funding for tourism marketing. Throughout his tenure, he was the voice for tourism on the Denver City Council, with a near perfect attendance at all VISIT DENVER functions. Not one to mince words, he gave up on “political correctness” early in his career, favoring “political directness.” Representing Denver, he appeared on national news shows, including The O’Reilly Factor, ABC’s World News Sunday, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Forbes and many international publications.
Charlie’s diverse background includes serving as president of an award-winning public relations firm, chief lobbyist for a statewide medical society, assistant public affairs director for an international trade union, a teacher at the secondary and college levels, and Realtor. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he was named their 2014 Outstanding Alumnus in the college of Arts and Science.
Charlie has been married for 35 years to Suzanne Brown, former features editor at The Denver Post. They have two grown children living in Brooklyn and Denver. Together, Charlie and Suzanne are one of the most distinguished couples in Denver, championing hundreds of projects and events to help make Denver a world class tourism destination.
Gary DeFrange – Winter Park Ski Resort
Gary DeFrange was only the third resort president at Winter Park since 1939, but in his 20 years of running it, he transformed Winter Park into one of Colorado’s major destination ski resorts. He was Chairman, President and CEO of First Interstate Bank of Denver and Area President for a three-state region for First Interstate Bank when he was guiding blind skiers for the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park. His banking career ended when the late Jerry Groswold (a member of the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame) retired from running Winter Park Resort in 1997, and DeFrange took over.
At first, finding money for capital investment was very difficult, as was cash flow, but DeFrange and his team came up with Colorado’s first low-priced season pass, “The Friends and Family 4-Pack,” which they began selling before the season ended to help cash flow through the summer months. He also worked with a team of people appointed by Mayor Wellington Webb to renegotiate the operating contract between the City of Denver and the Winter Park Recreational Association to benefit all parties. This contractual change allowed DeFrange to work with representatives from the City of Denver and Intrawest, one of the largest ski resort developers in the world, to create a Lease and Operating Agreement that would provide a minimum of $2 million each year to the City of Denver, pump an initial $50 million of capital improvements into the ski area for on-mountain and skier services, and allow Intrawest to build a Village at the base of Winter Park Resort. New high-speed lifts were added, such as the six-passenger Super Gauge and the Panoramic Express, increasing uphill capacity to 38,000 skiers an hour, and today the resort has more than 500 lodging units and more than 47,000 square feet of retail shopping and restaurant space at the base of the mountain.
Perhaps DeFrange’s most well-known success was in building a coalition between several partners and political allies to bring back the train from Denver’s Union Station to Winter Park Resort. The original beloved train to Winter Park ended in 2009, but today the now-named Winter Park Express is transporting more than 500 skiers to Winter Park on weekends and some Fridays. This service now makes Winter Park the only resort in North America where it is possible to use train service to go from a world class international airport to downtown, then to a world class ski resort.
For his 20 years of service transforming Winter Park to one of the largest ski resorts in Colorado, for securing financial success from the resort for the City of Denver and for reviving the Winter Park Express, Gary DeFrange is entering the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Barney Ford – Hotelier and Restaurateur (Posthumous Award)
Barney Ford has one of the most remarkable stories of anyone who has ever been in Colorado’s hospitality industry. He was born a slave in Virginia in 1822. Although it was illegal at the time, his mother taught him how to read and write. When he was “loaned” out by his master to work on a steamboat as a cook and porter, he saw his opportunity. When the steamboat was docked in Illinois, a free state, he was able with the help of the Underground Railroad, to literally step off the boat and escape.
Then began a series of adventures that would fill several novels. He went to Nicaragua, crossed the West and panned for gold in the California Gold Rush of 1849. But it was in the Colorado gold rush of 1859 that he achieved fame and fortune.
The laws of the day did not allow Black men to file mine claims. Ford found and worked a gold mine with white partners, but they cheated him and stole the mine. It was then he discovered the one area in the West at the time where he could work freely and where there was no color barrier -- the hospitality industry. Ford went back to his previous skills and opened a hotel and restaurant -- the Inter-Ocean Hotel at 16th and Blake in Denver. Within a short time, he was one of the richest people in the new mining town of Denver.
Ford always said that people “appreciate good quality food and accommodations, but they pay for service.” His philosophy paid off. He became one of the most famous restaurateurs in the West, opening restaurants in Cheyenne, Denver and other locations that were all known for their consistency and quality, but most of all for their service.
Unfortunately, none of the hotels or restaurants survived. Most of them burned down in fires or are long forgotten. However, Ford and his wife built a gorgeous home on Main Street in Breckenridge, and the house is open today as the Barney Ford Museum. The museum does an excellent job of telling the story of Barney Ford, and how, because there was no color barrier in the hospitality industry in the West, he was able to amass a fortune by providing something that was in short supply – quality food, outstanding accommodations and excellent service. Barney Ford died in 1902. There is a stained glass portrait of him in the Colorado State Capitol.