Denver’s $6.5 billion tourism industry will honor some of its top leaders and innovators at the 21st Annual Tourism Industry Hall of Fame dinner on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at The Mission Ballroom.
The 2019 inductees to the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame are: retired Denver Business Journal publisher and past chairman of the VISIT DENVER Board of Directors, Scott Bemis; Westword founder and editor, Patricia Calhoun; former VISIT DENVER communications director and travel writer, Rich Grant; and Denver restauranteurs, Kevin and Denise Taylor.
The Tourism Hall of Fame serves as the highest award for Denver’s travel industry – which had an amazing year in 2018 with 31.4 million visitors and a total of $6.5 billion in spending. Tourism supports more than 60,000 jobs in the metro area, making it one of the largest industries in Denver.
The gala is a fundraising event for the VISIT DENVER Foundation, which in its history has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to 391 Colorado students pursuing higher education in the fields of tourism and hospitality, and $120,000 to the former Denver’s Road Home.
For ticket information, please contact Lauren Huffer at email@example.com, 303.571.9405.
Scott Bemis – Director, Business and Community Partnerships, Plante Moran; retired publisher, Denver Business Journal
Scott Bemis served as president and publisher of the Denver Business Journal (DBJ) from 1996 to 2014, retiring after 30 years with American City Business Journals, DBJ’s parent company. It was Bemis who hired popular DBJ editor Neil Westergaard, who passed away in July 2019. Westergaard said of Bemis, “Scott Bemis is the Denver Business Journal. His leadership and personal style led the DBJ through profound changes in the newspaper business. He created an environment in which everyone could do their best work and he truly cared about the people who worked for him."
Throughout his career, Bemis recognized the great economic potential tourism could have in Denver and was a strong supporter of the industry. As a community leader, he joined the VISIT DENVER Board of Directors and was made chairman in 2004, a pivotal year for Denver and VISIT DENVER. Bemis oversaw the opening of the first Colorado Convention Center expansion in 2005 and a new direction for VISIT DENVER with the hiring of Richard Scharf as president. He was instrumental in helping achieve the voter-approved 2005 Denver election for more tourism marketing dollars; and he helped win campaigns for the continued funding of SCFD and approving FasTracks, which led to the vital rail connection between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport. After serving as chairman, Bemis has remained active with VISIT DENVER, taking on numerous committee roles during his long tenure on the board. He currently serves as chairman of the Nominating Committee, identifying potential new board members. He also remained active in the 2015 Denver election, which approved funds to further expand the Colorado Convention Center with a new ballroom and other upgrades.
Additionally, Bemis has spent nearly a decade mentoring a group of 25 young business professionals, and he has served on the boards of the Downtown Denver Partnership, Junior Achievement and the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. He received an honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales University and was granted a District Director’s Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In an effort to further serve the community, Bemis utilizes his professional network and connections to inspire inmates at Federal prisons. By bringing a variety of speakers to the prisons to work with and motivate inmates nearing release, Bemis hopes to contribute to the goals of reducing recidivism and reforming former offenders.
Denver Mayor B. Michael Hancock praised Bemis' ability to build relationships within the community. "There is no finer human being than Scott Bemis," Hancock said. "I consider him a friend and a confidant. He has set the pace for fair and high-quality journalism that is the model for modern-day reporting.”
Before coming to Denver, Bemis was publisher of business journals in Indianapolis and Rochester, N.Y., and the Cincinnati Business Courier. He and his wife, Pat, continue to live in the Denver area. Since retiring from publishing, Bemis has served as director of Business and Community Partnerships for Plante Moran, where he has continued his passion for the tourism industry by working with many of tourism’s top businesses.
Patricia Calhoun – Editor, Westword
Calhoun’s friend at the Denver Post, Bill Husted, wrote of her: “Patricia Calhoun is a Denver fixture as durable as the U.S. Mint.” She has been the editor of Westword since she and two friends founded the newspaper in 1977. Westword is a paper dedicated to Denver and to encouraging its citizens to explore the city; and it is consisently ranked as one of the most successful and award winning alternative weekly newspapers in America.
As editor, Calhoun is an ardent supporter of tourism, the arts, the live music scene, dining, breweries, galleries, shopping and every other aspect of Denver. She has appeared as a Denver ambassador on many national news shows, from the Today Show to NPR. Under her direction, Westword has also been a supporter of VISIT DENVER on numerous initiatives, from Denver Restaurant Week to Denver Beer Fest and more. The Westword weekly events calendar provides valuable information for tourists with the information it provides on concerts, art shows, exhibitions, and Denver events (large, small, and offbeat). Westword’s frequent special issues on summer activities and dining are great promotions for Denver, and the publication’s “Best Of” award is a trend-setting, coveted recognition that inspires all Denver businesses to do their best.
There is little doubt that Patricia Calhoun has had the longest running news column in Denver history, with 2019 marking her 42nd year of running Westword and writing a column about the city she loves. Quirky, funny, and original, her columns could form an encylopedia of Denver’s history over the last four decades, all of them done with a sense of humor and with malice toward none.
In addition to Calhoun’s dedication to spreading the word about Denver’s assets through Westword, her love of Colorado and tourism can be demonstrated by the fact that she and some partners recently bought the Genoa Tower – a historic roadside attraction that dates back to the 1920s, when early automobile tourists could climb the tower 100 miles east of Denver and get their first glimpse of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. The group plans to restore the tower as a museum and 21st Century roadside attraction for future tourists.
Rich Grant, Travel Writer and former Director of Communications for VISIT DENVER
Rich Grant likes to compare his career in travel to that of Forrest Gump, the fictional movie character who continually found himself by accident at history making events. “I may not have had much to do with creating Denver’s history, but I was always in the room,” Grant says. As the public relations director for VISIT DENVER since 1979, Grant found himself attending and promoting every major Denver opening, including the 16th Street Mall, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, the Colorado Convention Center, Denver International Airport, the Pepsi Center, Coors Field, Empower Field at Mile High, the Hamilton Building at Denver Art Museum, RTD FasTracks, dozens of new hotels and restaurants and many more tourism businesses. He attended and helped publicize some of the city’s major events including the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four in 1990, Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993, the first pitch of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, the Summit of the Eight in 1997, and the Democratic National Convention in 2008
Throughout his career, Grant gained a reputation for coining terms that elevated Denver’s brand and have now become beloved cornerstones of the city’s identity – including the famed “300 Days of Sunshine” and the “Napa Valley of Beer,” among many others. He was also integral in the creation of some of VISIT DENVER’s signature events, including Denver Restaurant Week, Denver Beer Week and Free Night at the Museum’s during Denver Arts Week.
Since retiring, Grant has become a full-time travel writer, his work appearing on many travel websites and print publications and receiving gold, silver and bronze awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, Western Chapter, and the North American Travel Journalists Association. He is the co-author with Irene Rawlings of the travel book, “100 Things to Do in Denver Before You Die,” which is currently in its second edition run.
Before joining VISIT DENVER, Grant had been a communications manager for Colorado State Parks & Recreation and a freelance writer with works appearing in more than 60 national publications, from National Forests Magazine and Sports Afield, to Ranger Rick and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
Kevin Taylor & Denise Taylor – Chef/Owners, Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group (KTRG)
In 1987, at the age of 25, self-taught chef and Denver native Kevin Taylor opened Zenith American Grill, serving his unique take on southwestern cuisine. Six months after opening, Zenith was among the three top-rated restaurants in Denver. Awards and recognition were garnered from national media, including Bon Appetit, Restaurant Hospitality and GQ. Zenith also earned a prized four-star rating, securing Taylor’s place on the culinary map.
Multiple successful concepts followed over the years, including the eponymous four-star, four diamond Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Brasserie Z, Prima, Dandelion and many others. Throughout his career, Taylor has been named a “Rising Star” by multiple national media outlets, and has been inducted to both the American Culinary Association’s Colorado Chef’s Association and Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Halls of Fame. He’s been a frequent guest chef at the James Beard House, as well as a Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Workshop, Taste of the NFL and more.
In 1993, Kevin’s one-day wife and business partner, Denise, began at the company in an event sales and management role. She became a financial partner in the business with the opening of the beloved Palettes in the Denver Art Museum in 1997, and they were married several years later. Since then, much of KTRG’s 32 years in business has been spent nourishing the city’s arts patrons – for 20 years at Palettes, and 15 at Kevin Taylor’s at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
Perhaps more than any other restauranteurs, the Taylors have welded tourism, the arts and food together. Tens of thousands of Denver visitors have included dining at one of the KTRG’s restaurants as part of their Denver cultural experiences, and with its recent expansion into the wider metro area, now even more diners will have the chance to enjoy the group’s food, with Hickory & Ash and Masa in Broomfield’s Arista Development. The Taylors’ love of food, presentation and culinary mastership has helped to give Denver the reputation it now enjoys as the cultural center of the Rocky Mountain West.