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2023 Tourism Hall of Fame Inductees and Tourism Stars

Current Award Winners

The Denver & Colorado Tourism Industry Hall of Fame was created to recognize outstanding individuals who through their leadership, dedication and professionalism have made significant contributions to the tourism industry in Denver and Colorado.

2023 Hall of Fame Inductees

2022 Tourism Stars

Past Inductees

The Denver & Colorado Travel Industry Hall of Fame was created to recognize outstanding…

Past Tourism Stars

“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a…

2023 Hall of Fame Inductees

Rob Cohen, Tourism Hall of FameRob Cohen

Chairman & CEO, IMA Financial Group & Founder of the Denver Sports Commission

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As Chairman and CEO of the IMA Financial Group, Inc., an integrated financial services company, Robert Cohen is responsible for the company’s core strategic plan, including organic growth, M&A and building an industry-leading employee culture.  In 2001, he was the Founder of the Denver Sports Commission, whose purpose was to help bring high-profile sporting events to Denver.  The group was also designed to serve as a welcoming host to athletes, families, and fans from around the world.  Denver Sports proactively identifies, pursues and attracts new sporting opportunities and helps Denver to compete regionally, nationally and internationally to host amateur and professional athletic competitions and events.

Rob strongly believes in personally giving back to the community and has served on more than 20 non-profit boards throughout his career in a variety of leadership capacities. Currently Rob serves on Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation (Co-Founder & Past Chair), Colorado Succeeds, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce (Past Chair), Denver Sports (Founder & Past Chair), Downtown Denver Partnership (Past Chair), Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. (Past Chair), and the United States Olympic Museum.  

He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation that serves as the primary source of philanthropic support for Team USA.  Founded in 2013, the USOPF generates critical financial resources that help Team USA athletes reach their full potential, both on and off the field of play.  Additionally, Rob Cohen is the chair of the Games Hospitality Working Group and in this capacity he travels around the world attending Olympic and Paralympic Games and other related events in an effort to support the Olympic movement and advance its mission. Because of Rob’s commitment to the Olympics, he was recently named a member of the Congressional Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics.

Jen Jasinski, Tourism Hall of FameBeth Gruitch, Tourism Hall of FameJennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch

Owners Crafted Concepts Restaurant Group

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Jen has perhaps brought more national attention to Denver fine dining than any other single chef.  A James Beard Foundation award-winner for Best Chef Southwest in 2013, and appeared on Top Chef Masters on the Bravo network that same year. Jasinski and her business partner Beth Gruitch opened their first restaurant, Rioja, in Denver’s Historic Larimer Square to critical acclaim in 2004 with a huge media splash -- a 16-page special section in the Rocky Mountain News that chronicled all the work that goes into opening a restaurant. Rioja features a menu inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by local and seasonal products.

In 2005, Jasinski and business partner Beth Gruitch bought Bistro Vendôme, the kicky French boîte directly across the street. Their seafood spot, Stoic & Genuine was the first restaurant to open in the beautifully remodeled Denver Union Station in 2014 joined in 2017 by Ultreia showcasing the food of Spain and Portugal. Jen added a consulting chef gig at The Ponti at the Denver Art Museum opening in 2021. The pair have announced the move of Bistro Vendôme to the Park Hill neighborhood in early  2023. Chef Jen was named 2004 Colorado Chef of the Year and 2005 Western Regional Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation. Jen has been named Best New Chef, Rising Star, Best Chef and more in Denver Magazine, Restaurant Hospitality, Nation’s Restaurant News, The Denver Post, and 5280 Magazine. Jasinski’s impressive restaurant credits include stints at Wolfgang Puck restaurants including Postrio, San Francisco; Spago, Las Vegas, Malibu; Spago, Chicago; and corporate chef at Wolfgang Puck Food Company. 

It’s difficult to imagine anyone in Denver’s highly competitive restaurant market that does more for the industry and the city than Beth Gruitch. Beth served as board chair and board member of the Colorado Restaurant Association, treasurer and board member of EatDenver and was a recent board member of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Denver Civic Ventures board.   She is responsible for human resources, crafting beverage programs, overseeing banquet sales, banking and guest service and monitoring accounting for four busy and successful restaurants.

She and Jen were honored as a semifinalists for the national Outstanding Restaurateur award by the James Beard Foundation in 2020 and Beth was named to the Colorado Restaurant Association Hall of Fame in 2022.  Perhaps her business partner, Jasinski says it best. “Beth assures that all the best happens for the guests in all our restaurants. She makes sure we hire the best service staff, gives them complete and thorough training and coaches them to perform.  She’s the reason people rave about our service.” 

George Sparks, Tourism Hall of FameGeorge Sparks

President & CEO, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

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George Sparks is well known for his wonderful leadership at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where he has turned it into the fourth largest museum in the United States and one of the most respected museums of its kind in the world. In addition to consistently being one of the top tourism attractions in Denver, the museum has gained much national press for the discovery of fossils in Steamboat – one of the largest fossil finds in history. 

George has transformed the museum, taking it to new international recognition, and has also been responsible for bringing blockbuster shows to the region.  From the museum’s on-site work at paleontological sites such as Steamboat to their work in space, George Sparks has kept the museum relevant and still on the cutting edge in the 21st Century.  Prior to the museum, he spent nine years in the Air Force as a pilot and as an assistant professor of aeronautics at the United States Air Force Academy.

He is a distinguished graduate of the USAF Academy with bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering, and holds a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  His passion is public policy, particularly around science and education. He is a member of the Colorado Forum, Colorado Concern, and is on the boards of Colorado Education Initiative, Colorado Music Hall of Fame, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the Denver School of Science & Technology. He is the founder of the Institute for Science & Policy, a program of the Museum.

Hal O’Leary, Tourism Hall of FameHal O’Leary, Posthumous Award

Founder, National Sports Center for the Disabled

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In 1970, George Engel, the owner of the Winter Park Ski School, asked his 65 employees for a volunteer.  Some 23 amputees from the Children’s Hospital would be visiting and they needed a one-time ski lesson.  Hal O’Leary raised his hand.  He didn’t have any prior experience dealing with children or people with disabilities.  When the kids arrived on an especially cold and windy day, he struggled.  And he learned.  O’Leary transformed that ski lesson into what would become the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), one of the largest therapeutic recreation and adaptive sports agencies in the world.  His journey would revolutionize the skiing industry and bring a new world of movement and hope to people of all disabilities. 

Hal’s book on adaptive skiing, Bold Tracks, has been translated into numerous languages and is still used to guide instructors on how to teach skiing to those with a myriad of disabilities. He also began to invent his own equipment to adapt to the different needs of his students, creating a cord between skis to help with lateral control, adding skis to walkers and creating sleds for paraplegics. Hal took his teachings around the world, setting up adaptive ski programs in more than 30 countries in Asia, Europe, and South America.  He also coached the US Disabled Olympic Team.  It is estimated that Hal worked personally with more than 20,000 disabled people before he passed away in June 2021 at the age of 94.

Today in Colorado, the NSCD at Winter Park Resort and in the Denver Metro area offers incredible adaptive outdoor experiences from skiing, hiking and horseback riding to rafting, archery, camping and more. And our Elite Athletes come from around the world to train here and ski competitively at the highest levels of their sport. Through a highly trained staff and hundreds of volunteers, NSCD served nearly 2,000 children and adults with disabilities in 8,000 adaptive outdoor experiences in 2022. For his contributions, Hal O’Leary has been inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame and the U.S. Disabled Ski Hall of Fame.

2022 Tourism Stars

“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during the preceding year.

Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup Champions

The Colorado Avalanche brought Denver its third Stanley Cup Championship in 2022, topping the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the Stanley Cup Final to capture the most prestigious trophy in all professional sports. Colorado’s title follows Stanley Cup victories in 1996, the team’s first year in Denver, and 2001, as the Avs became just the fourth team in NHL history to win each of its first three Stanley Cup Final appearances. The Avalanche claimed its title by going 16-4 in the postseason and equaling the NHL record for the most combined regular season and playoff wins with 72. Now with 11 division titles and three Stanley Cup Championships since moving to Denver, the Avalanche’s impact has gone beyond just a winning record and attracting a legion of fans to Denver from across the nation. The Avs have established a hockey culture in Denver, cementing the city as the Hockey Capital of the USA.  In 2022, Denver achieved something that had never been done before by any other city, winning all four major hockey championships.  

  • Colorado Avalanche: Stanley Cup Champions
  • University of Denver Pioneers: NCAA Champions
  • Denver East Hockey: National High School Champions
  • Peewee Jr. Avs: Quebec International Tournament Champions

Colorado loves hockey, and the sport continues to grow at all levels across the state. USA Hockey members in Colorado include 15,000 youth and high school players, 7,500 adult players and more than 10,000 coaches and volunteers. The participation of girls in the sport has grown by more than 30 percent each season. There are 14 facilities in metro Denver, featuring 25 sheets of ice, and an additional 33 facilities with 49 sheets of ice throughout the rest of the state.

All of this was exemplified by the more than 500,000 hockey fans who turned out to cheer the Colorado Avalanche in their 2022 Stanley Cup Victory Parade.

Coors Brewing Company

150th Anniversary

After being closed for two years because of the pandemic, Coors Brewery once again opened their facility to tours in 2022, now offering an enhanced experience where visitors can see and taste traditional brewing at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The new enhancements upgraded the tour format to enrich visitors’ overall experience, including the addition of a new lounge, personal tour guides, free samples throughout the tour, including a final product sample at the end, and complimentary branded aluminum cups for guests. Coors Brewery is the largest single-site brewery in the world! Since 1873, the Coors Brewery has thrived on a legacy of quality, innovation and customer service. On the tour, visitors can learn about the history of the brewery while visiting spectacular sites such as the huge kettle room where more than a dozen gigantic copper kettles aid in the brewing process. Then there’s the packaging department where thousands of bottles and cans march along on treads to be placed in six packs. Coors has turned the historic town of Golden into the biggest little beer town in the world with nine craft breweries and beer gardens nearby and in 2022, Coors began the first phase of a $900 million large-scale, mixed-use redevelopment of the CoorsTek manufacturing facility in downtown Golden. The new district, covering five city blocks, will account for approximately 1.25 million square feet of office, multifamily residential, placemaking retail, restaurants, public art space and a hotel. Also, in 2023, Coors Brewery will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a gigantic new brewing facility, a multi-hundred-million-dollar investment into the brewery that will completely overhaul the beer-making infrastructure. Another important outcome will be the ability to make significant strides in protecting the environment and contributing to the company’s sustainability plans. This includes reducing the energy and water use by as much as 15 percent each and waste by as much as 35 percent. 

DCPA Off-Center

Theater of the Mind

Theater of the Mind was co-created by Academy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winning artist David Byrne and writer Mala Gaonkar and offered an exciting new theatrical experience where audience members see, feel, taste and hear. Inspired by both historical and current neuroscience research, the show takes the audience on an immersive journey inside how we see and create our worlds. Audiences were able to peer behind the curtain of the physical realm and marvel at the wonders of our minds as they followed their Guide revisiting key moments in their life in a surreal, 15,000-square-foot installation. Over 75 minutes, the audience of just 16 members moves through a series of rooms where they participate in thought-provoking neuroscience experiments, learn how easily your own senses can deceive you, and discover if perhaps identity is less fixed than you think.

Denver Art Museum

Age of Armor
Who Tells a Tale Adds a Tail
Georgia O’Keeffe
Saints, Sinners, Lovers, Fools

Coming off their $150 million, four year construction project completed in 2021, the Denver Art Museum continued to show why they are one of the city’s top attractions with stunning new exhibitions that attracted visitors from the region and across the nation. Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer brought 100 newly identified photographs by the groundbreaking artist, as well as several paintings, drawings and related ephemera. Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Collection at the Worcester Art Museum, was an immersive exhibition featuring more than 100 objects highlighting the artistry, function and societal perceptions armor shaped throughout time. Saints, Sinners, Lovers, and Fools: 300 Years of Flemish Masterworks was a unique presentation of medieval, Renaissance and baroque paintings, sculptures and other objects from the Southern Netherlands. Masterpieces on display include works by Hans Memling, Jan Gossaert, Jan and Catharina van Hemessen, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck. Who tells a tale adds a tail: Latin America and contemporary art highlighted the work of 19 contemporary, millenial-generation, artists connected to Latin America and the ways in which their work reflects and interacts with relevant themes, and were represented through a multitude of media: painting, sculpture, installation, textial, video, sound, digital and performance art.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Eqypt, The Time of Pharaohs
Apollo: When We Went to the Moon
Unseen Oceans

In 2022, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science staged three fantastic exhibitions that took attendees from Egypt to the Moon and under the oceans, while attracting tourists from throughout the region and nation. Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs, transported visitors to the distant past to explore ancient Egyptian culture and the land of pharaohs. Over 5,000 years ago, Egypt became a state that unified many cities and towns along the Nile River. Since then, ancient Egypt’s powerful pharaohs, phenomenal pyramids and extraordinary art have captivated peoples’ imagination all over the world. The exhibit let people experience everyday life in one of the most storied cultures in human history—the private, public and secret spaces—through hundreds of artifacts, stunning artwork and engaging interactives for insights into ancient Egyptian people and their impact on our own culture.

Apollo: When We Went to the Moon was a family-friendly, multisensory exhibition featuring dozens of real objects from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s archives, while Unseen Oceans submerged visitors into a mysterious and spectacular aquatic world to discover the ocean’s best-kept secrets, including alien-like creatures, glow in the dark fish and other spectacular ocean life through movies, videos and exhibits. A video game allows visitors to drive a submersible just like real ocean scientists and explore the different species living in the ocean. 

Rocky Mountaineer

Grand opening

Since 1990, Rocky Mountaineer has been operating luxury rail journeys through Western Canada and the Canadian Rockies. The trains travel during daylight hours and run at leisurely speeds, even slowing down in the most scenic areas. Passengers ride in the comfort of glass-dome rail cars, where they enjoy locally inspired cuisine and beverages. In 2021, Rocky Mountaineer launched a new route in Colorado with a journey called “Rockies to the Red Rocks.” The 2022 season began in April with Rocky Mountaineer carrying passengers from Denver through 28 tunnels as it climbed past snowcapped peaks to burrow under the Continental Divide and emerge at the headwaters of the Colorado River. From there, the route follows the river to Glenwood Springs, where passengers depart for an evening in the historic town. The next day, the train continues its journey through one red rock canyon after another until arriving near Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. Passengers can travel from Denver to Moab, or vice versa, experiencing some of the most luxurious and scenic train travel in the world. Rocky Mountaineer brought another exciting adventure opportunity to Denver.