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 has been 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 rail to the airport, 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, the first public university to provide 100 percent online degree programs.
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, Colorado, home today for nearly 100,000 residents.
He’s been a Special Agent of the FBI, an attorney, Legislative Assistant for former U.S. Senator Gordon Allott (R. Colorado) and H.U.D. Region 8 Administrator. He also served on the Colorado Baseball Commission, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (Chair), and the Colorado Transportation Commission (Chair). Joe's commitment to Colorado was most apparent in 2005 when he served as co-chair of the statewide Yes on Referenda C and D campaign. Voters passed Referenda C to allow the State of Colorado to retain revenues for higher education, transportation and health care over a five-year period. His past and present community service includes: President of the Hospice of St. John, Trustee Emeritus of the Denver Zoological Foundation, the Denver Metro Chamber Board of Directors, The Denver Foundation Board of Trustees and the Denver Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors. In recognition of his community service, Joe has received numerous awards: the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the American Jewish Committee National Human Relations Award, the Henry M. Porter Award for Community Leadership, an honorary doctorate of business administration from Johnson and Wales University, and the Metro Volunteers Lifetime Achievement Award.
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 contibutions 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.
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 national news story of the arts took place in October 2021 with the long-anticipated opening of the Martin Building, Sturm Pavilions, Sie Welcome Center and renovated Ponti Building at the Denver Art Museum. After almost four years of construction, the $175 million project offers a unified, expanded campus complete with new welcome center, educational spaces, and more inclusive collections, as well as a complete reconstruction of the Ponti Building, now dubbed the Lanny and Sharon Martin Building. The new buildings offer a gorgeous new restaurant, the opening of the roof for the first time with spectacular views, 30,000 sq. ft. of new exhibition space, and a revamped 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 all the Rocky Mountains, the new Denver Art Museum has become a “must visit” and even more important, a “must re-visit” attraction that will bring tourists back to Denver again and again.
In addition to the new opening, the Denver Art Museum also staged two major shows in 2021 that brought people to downtown and to the city during a pivotal time period. For these accomplishments and additions, the Denver Art Museum is certainly one of the Tourism Stars of 2021.
Beginning in March 2016, the Denver Center for 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, lobby, technology, accessibility, backstage and support areas, and the renovation of four theatres: The Marvin & Judi Wolf Theatre (formerly Stage Theatre); The William Dean Singleton Theatre (formerly Ricketson Theatre); The Dorota & Kevin Kilstrom Theatre (formerly Space Theatre); and The Weeks Conservatory Theatre (formerly Conservatory Theatre). In addition, DCPA helped bring to Denver Van Gogh Alive, a large-scale, COVID-Safe, multi-sensory 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, visitors are surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound and fragrance that has been called an ‘unforgettable’ multi-sensory experience. Van Gogh’s masterpieces come to life, giving visitors the sensation of walking right into his paintings, a feeling that is simultaneously enchanting, entertaining and educational.
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. “GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World” was 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. "Stonehenge” the exhibition included 400 artifacts, plus breakthrough science behind some of the latest discoveries about this prehistoric monument. Together, the three shows helped Denver attract visitors and provide fascinating glimpses of the world during a period when the pandemic slowed down travel.
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. Three years in the making, Convergence Station uses art from 300 creatives (including 110+ from Colorado).
The 4-story exhibition is home to 70+ unique installations, rooms, and portals. Together, they tell an unforgettable, cathartic tale of what happens when a Denver city bus crashes into a brick wall and opens portals to four magical converged worlds. Tickets have been selling out far in advance. The facility includes function rooms for meetings and gatherings, and in just a short time has become one of the most talked about and nationally publicized attractions in Denver, making it without question, a Tourism Star of 2021.
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.