Broncos President Joe Ellis, former Colorado Governor Roy Romer, Restauranteur Holly Arnold Kinney and Frontier Scout and Showman Buffalo Bill Cody to be Honored at the 18th Annual Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame Dinner

DENVER (February 14, 2017) – Denver’s $5 billion tourism industry will honor some of its top leaders and innovators at the 18th Annual Tourism Industry Hall of Fame dinner on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Being inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame are: president & CEO of the Denver Broncos, Joe Ellis; owner of The Fort restaurant and historian Holly Arnold Kinney; and former Colorado Governor Roy Romer. 

A special posthumous award will be presented to one of the most famous figures of the America West, a man who did much to make Denver and Colorado popular tourism destinations – the legendary frontier scout and showman, Buffalo Bill Cody.

The Tourism Hall of Fame serves as the highest award for Denver’s travel industry – which registered its best year ever in 2015 with 16.4 million overnight visitors, generating more than $5 billion in spending. The industry supports more than 54,000 jobs in the metro area.

The gala is a fund-raising event for the VISIT DENVER Foundation, which has awarded more than $842,000 in scholarships to 310 Colorado students pursuing higher education in the fields of tourism and hospitality.

For ticket information, please contact Meagan Logan at or 303.571.9405.



Joe Ellis, President & CEO, Denver Broncos

It would be impossible to overestimate the economic and publicity value of the Denver Broncos to Denver’s tourism industry.  The Broncos are the first thing mentioned in tourism word association tests about Denver and in 2014 were recognized by a Harris poll as “America’s Team”—the most popular football team in the U.S.  More than 1.4 million fans watched the Broncos play in person in 2016, while hundreds of millions of people around the world watch them every season, exposing fans to tourism images of Denver and Colorado. The publicity from the Super Bowl 50 victory alone was valued at $190 billion from the more than 108,000 stories told around the world.

One of the men behind all the successes enjoyed by this professional organization has been Joe Ellis. In 2016, Joe began his sixth season as president of the Denver Broncos and his third year as chief executive officer.  Having worked with Owner Pat Bowlen for nearly three decades, Joe has been entrusted to operate the team with full authority while serving as the Broncos’ representation for all league matters.

Joe owns extensive experience and expertise at both the club and league level through his 22 seasons with the Broncos and 29 seasons in the NFL. Joe’s leadership skills and business knowledge have helped the Broncos strengthen their reputation as one of the most successful and fan-friendly franchises in all of professional sports. He has earned significant recognition from his peers and throughout the Rocky Mountain Region for the Broncos’ emphasis on community involvement and civic responsibility.

Joe is the key person bridging the Broncos organization with the tourism and business interests of the city, has served as chairman of VISIT DENVER and has been on numerous tourism committees.  He helped organize the largest single event in Denver’s history, the Super Bowl 50 Victory Parade, which attracted one million people.

Under Joe’s direction, the Broncos enter 2017 positioned at or near the top of the NFL in numerous key areas of importance to tourism, including on-field success, local popularity, national prominence, attendance, philanthropic involvement and local television ratings.  The Broncos enjoyed their 47th consecutive season of sellouts in 2016—the longest active streak in the NFL. 

The Broncos have made its game day experience a priority, embracing innovation and technology to improve fan engagement, satisfaction and safety. Joe worked to secure a $30 million investment at Sports Authority Field at Mile High that increased the size of its scoreboard by three times while enhancing all stadium audio/visual elements, suites and concourses. He also oversaw more than $35 million in major expansions and renovations at the team’s UC Health Training Center headquarters in Englewood in 2014.

The results? The Broncos won five consecutive AFC West Division titles since Joe was named team president in 2011—the longest such streak in club history—culminating with the team’s victory in Super Bowl 50.

For his work in making the Denver Broncos a symbol of the city and a professional organization that gladly works with the tourism industry to promote the Mile High City, Joe Ellis is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.


Holly Arnold Kinney, owner of The Fort restaurant and founder of Tesoro Foundation

Holly Arnold Kinney literally grew up in one of metro Denver’s most famous tourism icons, The Fort restaurant.  The Fort, a replica of Bent’s Old Fort on the Santa Fe Trail, was built by Holly’s father, Sam Arnold, as a private home in 1963, but turned it into a restaurant specializing in authentic foods of the mountain men era in the Southwest.  Holly grew up in an apartment in the upstairs portion of the restaurant, with Sam Arnold’s bear, “Sissy,” as a pet.

After a career in advertising and marketing, Holly formed a partnership with her father to manage the restaurant in 1999, and took over full ownership of The Fort restaurant in 2006, after her father Sam Arnold passed away.  

Holly has not only kept the Western traditions of The Fort going, but she has expanded on them.  In 1999, she started the Tesoro Culture Center, a non-profit committed to protecting and making available to the public the artistic treasures and history of the Southwest.  They have group and school tours teaching Bent’s Fort history, historic lecture series, and many events such as the Indian Market Powwow that attracted the nation’s top Indian artists. In the fall, a Mountain Man Rendezvous that preserves Colorado history with artists, demonstrations, and music. New in 2017 Tesoro is opening The Fort from 11am-3pm during weekends for their new Living History Experience from June 1-Oct. 15 featuring artists, Indian dancing, demonstrations and music of the early West.

The Fort has become a tourism institution in Denver, featured in hundreds of travel articles and TV shows.  Sam Arnold was one of the first inductees into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame in 2004.  This is the first father-daughter team in the Hall of Fame.

The Fort was selected by President Bill Clinton to host the dinner for the Summit of Eight in 1997.  In addition to her local activities, Holly Arnold Kinney has a national presence in the tourism industry.  She was the only person from Colorado appointed to serve on the prestigious U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board, which reports to President Obama on tourism issues. Kinney has served on the board of the Colorado Restaurant Association and received the association’s highest individual award, the Distinguished Service Award, in 2010.  In May 2015, she received the Daughters of the American Revolution’s National medal for Historic Preservation for her work with Tesoro and for securing The Fort’s place on the National Register of Historic Places  She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Historical Society and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Agriculture Colorado Proud program. In 2016 Holly was given the Mile High Leader Award for Outstanding Woman in Business by the Denver Business Journal.

For her lifetime of work in promoting the history, culture, traditions and cuisine of the Southwest through the Tesoro Center and The Fort restaurant, Holly Arnold Kinney is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.  


Roy Romer – Former Governor of Colorado

Roy Romer was the 39th Governor of Colorado and the last governor to serve three terms.  The former owner of a ski area, he was governor during a pivotal time for Denver and played a key role in the decision to build Denver International Airport (DIA).  Perhaps no single event has been more important to Denver’s tourism industry than the decision to build DIA, and it is impossible to imagine that happening without the support of Governor Romer, and the work he did in lobbying for statewide support for the project.

He was a strong supporter of tourism and under his reign the Colorado Tourism Board (CTB) became a model for the entire country.   When the CTB was eliminated due to the TABOR being passed, Governor Romer worked to get at least some funds to keep information centers open. 

He also lobbied the state legislature to supply $125 million to purchase the land for the Colorado Convention Center.  Without that support, the center never could have been built in downtown Denver.  

Born in Garden City, Kansas, he grew up in Holly in southeastern Colorado. He received a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Colorado State University in 1950, and a law degree from the University of Colorado in 1952. He also studied ethics at Yale University. From 1958 to 1966, he served in the Colorado House of Representatives and in the Colorado State Senate. He was first elected governor of Colorado in 1986, reelected in 1990, and again in 1994, and, as a result of voter-adopted term limits, was the last Colorado governor to serve three terms. 

Because of his support of the two biggest tourism projects of the 20th Century, the building of Denver International Airport and the construction of the Colorado Convention Center, former Colorado Governor Roy Romer is being inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.



William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody

Col. William F. Cody was the world’s first superstar and the man who made the American West one of the world’s great tourism destinations.  The romantic images and stories of the West that he created have endured for more than a century and are still an important factor in why people visit Denver and Colorado.

Today it is difficult to imagine Buffalo Bill’s popularity.  From 1883 to 1913, he and his show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” toured the globe, bringing the thrill of the American West to a thousand cities in a dozen different nations.  At its height, the show played before the crowned heads of Europe, crisscrossed America in a special train of 52 box cars, and employed more than 640 cowboys, Indians, vaqueros, rough riders, and support personnel.  As a comparison, Beyonce’s world tour in 2016 employed less than 100 people.

In 2017, it will be 100 years since Buffalo Bill died in Denver and was laid in-state in the Colorado State Capitol.  At his request, he was buried on top of nearby Lookout Mountain, which offered views of the plains and the Rocky Mountains.  More than 25,000 people attended his funeral – the largest in Colorado history with a progression of cars that stretched from downtown Denver, up the Lariat Loop Trail to his gravesite at the top of the mountain.  

His grave and a museum honoring him have been ranked as one of the top 10 paid attractions in Denver for more than 20 years.

But who was Buffalo Bill?  The history, the legends and the myths about this remarkable man come to life at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum, which is owned and operated by the City of Denver as part of their Mountain Parks Division.  Cody’s life covered every stage in the development of the West.  He crossed the plains in a covered wagon train.  At age 15, he worked as a Pony Express rider.  He served in the Civil War and helped build the railroads by supplying the work crews with buffalo meat.  As chief of scouts, he served General Phil Sheridan in the Indian wars.  He made one of the first movie “Westerns” and opened the first tourist hotel near Yellowstone National Park. But above all else, he was the greatest showman of his time. 

The museum has an outstanding collection of posters and memorabilia from “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” including exhibits on the woman of the “Wild West” that Bill helped promote, such as Annie Oakley, Goldie Griffith and Lulu Parr.  Some of Cody’s elaborate costumes, saddles and guns are on exhibit, as well as original paintings of the famous scout. After viewing the museum, it’s a short walk through beautiful Colorado blue spruce trees to the top of the mountain where Buffalo Bill was buried in 1917.  It is fitting resting spot for the man President Theodore Roosevelt called “An American of Americans.”

For all that he did in promoting the romance, adventure and beauty of the American West and for being the “star” of one of Denver’s most popular and long-lasting tourism attractions, Buffalo Bill is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.