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.
A Colorado native, Joe Blake was a vital part of Colorado’s business and education community for more than five decades. He was the President and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for nearly a decade during a pivotal time in Denver’s history, helping to bring Major League Baseball to the city and helping to win the election to expand RTD’s transit system in Metro Denver, two events that greatly increased Denver’s appeal as a tourism destination. As Chancellor of the Colorado State University System, he oversaw its three distinct institutions: CSU, CSU-Pueblo and CSU-Global, and worked to help secure a more sustainable funding commitment for higher education in Colorado.
For nearly 20 years prior to his leadership of the Chamber, Blake was part of the senior management team that created the community of Highlands Ranch, home today for nearly 100,000 residents.
He was Legislative Assistant to U. S. Senator Gordon Allott (R-Colo.) in Washington. He was also a special agent of the FBI following graduation from law school.
Joe's commitment to Colorado was most apparent in 2005 when he served as co-chair of the statewide Yes on Referendum C and D campaign. Voters passed Referendum C to allow the State of Colorado to retain revenues for higher education, transportation and health care over a five-year period.
He has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the CSU Board of Governors, Colorado Baseball Commission, Chair of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Chair of the Colorado Transportation Commission, Colorado Concern and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Recognition for his past civic and community service include induction into the 2017 Colorado Business Hall of Fame, the 2015 Denver Business Journal Legacy Award, the El Pomar Foundation Community Leadership Award, the Boy Scouts Distinguished Eagle Award and the Del Hock Lifetime Achievement Award from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
He was a Life-time Trustee of the Denver Area Boy Scouts. Joe was a graduate of East High School, Dartmouth College and the University of Colorado, School of Law. For his many contributions that have helped Denver grow as a tourism destination – from professional sports to a world class ground transportation system – Joe Blake is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Sadly, Joe Blake passed away in February 2022, just weeks prior to his induction.
Former DEN CEO Kim Day retired in July 2021, after presiding for 13 years over large-scale expansion projects and rapid passenger growth. For more than half of the airport’s history, Day was integral in elevating its international profile. She has also recognized how DEN contributes to Colorado tourism and the economic success of the region and made sure these were factors in decision making.
Day was appointed DEN manager by then-Mayor John Hickenlooper in early 2008. After Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s first election in 2011, he retained Day, calling her “the dynamic leader we needed at a pivotal time.”
She took over during the Great Recession, but soon she was able to foster the growth and increasing revenue to turn DEN into the nation’s fifth-busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, DEN was one of the world’s first major airports to rebound and is currently the 3rd busiest in the world in terms of passenger count.
In addition to its high rankings and innumerable accolades, DEN is admired throughout the aviation industry. “Kim Day’s impact on Denver International Airport and subsequently on our regional economy, is indelible,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Kim has been the dynamic leader we needed at a pivotal time of growth and opportunity for our city and state. She is the epitome of selfless leadership, grit and perseverance, an exceptional leader who sets the highest standards for herself and her team, and delivers impactful results with precision, and expert attention to detail. Kim’s dedication to our shared vision of creating a world-class airport is a crowning achievement of her professional career and a lasting legacy for my administration.”
DEN reports that annual passenger traffic has increased from 51 million when Day took over to 69 million in 2019, and the number of international destinations served by DIA increased from 170 to 214. Annual airport revenue grew from $842 million to $1.2 billion. In a statement, Day attributed her decision to step down in part to surviving cancer in recent years. She had planned to retire in 2020, but stayed on to help guide DEN through the many challenges of the pandemic. She said she also felt confident about the stability of several expansion projects underway as part of a $3.5 billion capital program, including the gate expansion program and terminal rebuild.
“Kim Day’s impact on Denver International Airport, and subsequently on our regional economy, is indelible,” Hancock said. “Kim’s dedication to our shared vision of creating a world-class airport is a crowning achievement of her professional career and a lasting legacy for my administration.” For her many contributions to the success of Denver International Airport, Kim Day is inducted in the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Both Hagan and Marranzino have provided strategic leadership, brand development and marketing experience in tourism marketing for Denver and Colorado for a combined eight-plus decades.
Marranzino has been involved in more Denver and Colorado tourism advertising than any other human being. For four decades, he has worked with a wide variety of clients, making him one of the most respected and well-known advertising professionals in the Rocky Mountain Region. Though he has worked on clients such as McDonald’s, INVESCO Funds, and Colorado National Bank, it is for tourism-related clients that he is perhaps best known, including the Colorado Lottery, Colorado Tourism Office, Aspen Snowmass, Best Western International, Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, Frontier Airlines, Loveland Ski Area, Regal Hotels, Steamboat Ski & Resort, and of course, VISIT DENVER. He currently has the distinction of working on both the award-winning Colorado Tourism Office and the VISIT DENVER accounts.
He was named “Professional of the Year” and honored with a Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement by the Denver Advertising Federation. For more than 40 years, he has been an instrumental figure in creating Denver and Colorado’s tourism brand, and converting this brand into creative, visual and impactful advertising.
Encouraged to be an entrepreneur by her father, Karsh Hagan founder Tom Hagan, Kathy Hagan launched her first agency at the age of 26. Today, she is co-CEO of Karsh Hagan with Marranzino, running the agency and remaining actively involved in the advertising campaigns for VISIT DENVER, the Colorado Tourism Office and Denver International Airport (DEN).
She has supported numerous community initiatives and led the Denver Advertising Federation as Chairperson and was also recognized as “Professional of the Year”. Other recognition includes Denver Business Journal and Colorado Business Top Women Owned Company, Colorado Homes and Lifestyles Stylemaker and Karsh Hagan was recognized as Colorado Biz Top Company in 2019. In addition, she currently serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Denver, The Denver Art Museum and is a trustee of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. As with Marranzino, she has had a swath of clients – from corporations to tourism destinations - including Anschutz Medical Campus, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado Tourism Office, Denver International Airport (DEN), The Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Four Point Energy, University of Colorado, VISIT DENVER, and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
For their significant contributions to developing Denver’s and Colorado’s tourism brands, Pocky and Kathy are inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during the preceding year.
On April 5, 2021, Denver was awarded the 2021 MLB All-Star Game and MLB Draft. Normally, it takes 2 years to prepare to host this event. Denver had 13 weeks. It took more than a village to pull this off. It took the entire state. In the end, 49,184 fans attended the game in the largest public event in Colorado since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Hundreds of thousands more participated in dozens of events around the game including the MLB Draft and Playball Park. The game was broadcast across the world in 60 media platforms in 14 languages in 197 countries. The economic impact based on previous games exceeded $100 million. More important, it showed the world that Denver was open for business and ready to host major events. The event could not have been possible without the help of Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, The Colorado Rockies and Denver Sports, who should all share in making this a 2021 Tourism Star.
More than 144,000 fans came to Empower Field at Mile High for the 2021 Concacaf Nations League Finals. This was the final tournament of the 2019–20 edition of the CONCACAF Nations League, the inaugural season of the international football competition involving the men's national teams of the member associations of CONCACAF. The tournament was held June 3-6, 2021, between four group winners of Nations League A. The tournament consisted of two semi-finals, a third-place play-off, and final to determine the inaugural champions of the Concacaf Nations League.
The United States defeated Mexico 3–2 after extra time in the final to become the first champions of the Concacaf Nations League. Not only did the games fill Empower Field and bring economic development to the area, but through International coverage they showed that Denver was capable of staging major sporting events. The success of the games will definitely help Denver’s bid to host the World Cup, and proved that when it comes to hosting sports events, Denver and Concacaf are Tourism Stars.
Another major development for Denver’s tourism product opened to the public in October 2021 with the long-anticipated opening of Denver Art Museum’s Lanny and Sharon Martin Building, Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center and Sturm Grand Pavilions well as new outdoor public spaces. After almost four years of construction and installation work, the $175 million project offers a unified, expanded campus complete with new welcome center, educational spaces, and more inclusive collection presentations, as well as a complete renovation of the historic Gio Ponti-designed building, now dubbed the Martin Building. The new offerings include a gorgeous new restaurant; the repurposing of two rooftop areas into outdoor gathering spaces with spectacular views; 30,000 sq. ft. of new exhibition space over seven floors; and the brand-new welcome center that greatly improves the visitor experience. News stories across the country heralded this as one of the biggest cultural events of 2021. Already one of the top attractions in the Rocky Mountain region, the new Denver Art Museum has become a “must visit” and a “must re-visit” attraction that will bring tourists back to Denver again and again.
In addition to the renovation, Denver Art Museum also staged two major exhibitions in 2021 that brought people to the city during a pivotal time period. First, Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Véronique and Gregory Peck examined the evolution of fashion as women’s role in society changed throughout the 20th century through one of the most famed and fashionable couples of the time. Then, Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France (running through March 13, 2022), unveiled the first comprehensive examination of France’s stylistic impact on American painting from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. For these accomplishments and additions, Denver Art Museum is certainly one of the Tourism Stars of 2021.
Started in 2018, the Freyer – Newman Center opened in 2021 as a physical manifestation of the Botanic Gardens’ final step in a four-phase Master Development Plan. The new building is a celebration of the fusion of science and art and houses the Helen Fowler Library, the Sturm Family Auditorium, art galleries, herbaria, classrooms, the School of Botanical Art & Illustration and a coffee shop, the Copper Door. Housing each of these different elements in a single facility makes them more accessible to the public and greatly enhances the experience the Denver Botanic Gardens offers to visitors. The building name honors Robert and Judi Newman and Ginny and John Freyer, who together contributed the final amount of funds to make possible the construction of the new center for science, art and education.
In addition, the Botanic Gardens hosted a five-month exhibition in 2021, Salvador Dali’ – Gardens of the Mind, which showcased rarely seen fanciful color lithographs on loan from The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. Mixing flora with the artist’s signature motifs, the images of fruits and flowers unsettle viewers, making them question what they think they know about reality by juxtaposing seemingly incongruent elements. The exhibition of nearly 40 works was a popular attraction in the spring and summer, making it unquestionably, a tourism star in 2021.
Beginning in March 2016, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts embarked on the most ambitious project in their master plan. The renovation of the Bonfils Theatre Complex was a $54 million investment to reimagine a world-class home for magical theatre and memorable events. Completed in 2021, it resulted in tremendous upgrades to the main entrance, technology, accessibility, backstage and support areas, and the renovation of two theatres: The Marvin & Judi Wolf Theatre (formerly Stage Theatre) and The William Dean Singleton Theatre (formerly Ricketson Theatre).
In addition, DCPA helped bring Van Gogh Alive to Denver, a large-scale, COVID-safe digital art experience, giving visitors the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into Van Gogh’s artistry. Visitors had the opportunity to find themselves interacting with art in ways they never imagined. From start to finish, spectators were surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound and fragrance that has been called an ‘unforgettable’ multi-sensory experience. Van Gogh’s masterpieces came to life, giving visitors the sensation of walking right into his paintings, a feeling that was simultaneously enchanting, entertaining and educational.
For these huge improvements to the theatres and for bringing a fun, interactive art installation to Denver, DCPA is truly a tourism star in 2021.
In 2021, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science staged three fantastic exhibitions that brought visitors from around the nation. SUE the T. rex is the most complete, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, and the traveling exhibition SUE: The T. rex Experience brought the 40-foot-long, 13-foot-tall dinosaur to Denver in all her frightening glory with animations and a fleshed-out replica of what SUE would have looked like while once roaming Denver. Stonehenge, the groundbreaking exhibition, included 400 artifacts, plus breakthrough science behind some of the latest discoveries about this prehistoric monument. GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World (running through April 17, 2022) is a fascinating exploration of the science, sound, history and pop culture behind the world’s most popular instrument, including a chance to strum the world’s largest playable guitar, measuring in at 43.5- feet-long and certified by Guinness World Records. Together, the three shows helped Denver attract visitors and provide captivating glimpses of the world – past and present.
Luminova Holidays made its Colorado debut at Elitch Gardens in 2021 with more than 3 million dazzling lights. Every evening, the holiday spectacle transformed the theme park into a winter wonderland with Santa, rides and more. There is a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 25-foot snowman that never melts, 200-foot candy cane tunnel, gigantic ornaments and presents, a 300-foot wall of lights, rides on limited Elitch Garden attractions, interactive activities, strolling holiday entertainers and a gala show with Old Saint Nick and his elves in the Trocadero Theatre. The event is sure to become a holiday tradition and another reason that Denver is becoming a major national destination during the Mile High Holidays.
Located in the heart of Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), adjacent to Coors Field, McGregor Square ushers in a new shopping, dining, entertainment, food, and sports center for the city. With 12 restaurants and bars, five retail outlets including a fabulous new home for the Tattered Cover, a new 182-room Rally Hotel, and a gigantic 17,000 square foot plaza complete with a stadium-sized LED screen, McGregor Square is a new meeting place for tourists. Just two blocks from Union Station and light rail, the center of the square is the outdoor plaza, a pre- and post-game gathering place for Rockies fans, as well as a year-round destination for concerts, festivals, and movie nights. A new Rockies Hall of Fame Experience and unique gathering spaces combine with urban retail and restaurants, multi-family residences, a hotel, and office spaces to create a rich sense of place and an inspiring vacation destination. Opened in 2021, McGregor Square has already become one of the focal points of downtown Denver and a true “Tourism Star.”
Meow Wolf’s third permanent exhibition, Convergence Station, opened in Denver in September 2021 and is an unforgettable, transformational and not-to-be-missed experience. Four years in the making, Convergence Station uses art from 300 creatives, including more than 100 from Colorado.
The four-story exhibition is home to more than 79 unique installations, rooms and portals. Together, they tell a wildly imaginative, cathartic tale of what happens when a Denver city bus crashes into a rift during a rare cosmic event and opens a portal to four converged alien worlds. In addition to the immersive art experience, the exhibition includes function rooms for meetings and gatherings, a fusion café called HELLOFOOD with grab-and-go food and drink options from local vendors, and a 488-capacity live music and private events venue called the Perplexiplex. In just a short time, Meow Wolf has become one of the most talked about and nationally publicized attractions in Denver, making it without question, a Tourism Star of 2021.