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.
2018 Hall of Fame Inductees
Stephen Bartolin, Jr. has had a legendary career at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where he served as president and CEO for 24 years, making him the longest serving president in The Broadmoor’s history. Starting there in 1991, after stints at the Greenbrier and the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Bartolin became the driving force behind The Broadmoor’s success and acclaim. During his reign, Bartolin oversaw a $450 million expansion, upgrade and restoration project that allowed the property to keep the Five Star rating they were at risk of losing. Today, The Broadmoor is the longest running Five Star and Five Diamond rated property in North America and is one of the greatest icons in Colorado’s hospitality business.
In March 2015, he was named Chairman of The Broadmoor and its related businesses. He also serves as President of The Broadmoor-Sea Island Company. Bartolin was named 1997 Resort Executive of the Year, was recognized as the 2005 Colorado Hotelier of the Year, named Independent Hotelier of the Year by Hotels Magazine in 2010, and was named the 2013 CEO of the Year by Colorado Business Magazine.
The Broadmoor’s other tourism related businesses include The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, Seven Falls, Cloud Camp, The Ranch at Emerald Valley, The Broadmoor Fly Fishing Camp and The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure.
Known as the “cowboy councilman,” Charlie Brown was first elected to the Denver City Council in May 2001 until he was tenured out of office in July 2015. Decked out in his signature western shirts, hat and bolo tie, Charlie Brown brought a moderate, business-oriented, common sense perspective to the 13-member council. As a voice for fiscal moderation, Councilman Brown worked hard to ensure that Denver continued to be a great place to live, work and raise a family – and welcome tourists. Charlie represented the Council on the VISIT DENVER Board of Directors for 14 years.
He was a strong backer of the Colorado Convention Center, the expansion of the center and the 2015 ballot initiative 2C, which increased funding for tourism marketing. Throughout his tenure, he was the voice for tourism on the Denver City Council, with a near perfect attendance at all VISIT DENVER functions. Not one to mince words, he gave up on “political correctness” early in his career, favoring “political directness.” Representing Denver, he appeared on national news shows, including The O’Reilly Factor, ABC’s World News Sunday, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Forbes and many international publications.
Charlie’s diverse background includes serving as president of an award-winning public relations firm, chief lobbyist for a statewide medical society, assistant public affairs director for an international trade union, a teacher at the secondary and college levels, and Realtor. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he was named their 2014 Outstanding Alumnus in the college of Arts and Science.
Charlie has been married for 35 years to Suzanne Brown, former features editor at The Denver Post. They have two grown children living in Brooklyn and Denver. Together, Charlie and Suzanne are one of the most distinguished couples in Denver, championing hundreds of projects and events to help make Denver a world class tourism destination.
Gary DeFrange was only the third resort president at Winter Park since 1939, but in his 20 years of running it, he transformed Winter Park into one of Colorado’s major destination ski resorts. He was Chairman, President, and CEO of First Interstate Bank of Denver and Area President for a three-state region for First Interstate Bank when he was guiding blind skiers for the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park. But his banking career ended when the late Jerry Groswold (a member of the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame) retired from running Winter Park Resort in 1997, and Gary took over.
At first, finding money for capital investment was very difficult, as was cash flow, but DeFrange and his team came up with Colorado’s first low-priced Season Pass, “The Friends and Family 4-Pack,” which they began selling before the season ended to help cash flow through the summer months. He also worked with a team of people appointed by Mayor Wellington Webb to renegotiate the operating contract between the City of Denver and the Winter Park Recreational Association to benefit all parties. This contractual change allowed DeFrange to work with representatives from the City of Denver and Intrawest, one of the largest ski resort developers in the world, to create a Lease and Operating Agreement that would provide a minimum of $2 million each year to the City of Denver, pump an initial $50 million of capital improvements into the ski area for on-mountain and skier services, and allow Intrawest to build a Village at the base of Winter Park Resort. New high-speed lifts were added, such as the six-passenger Super Gauge and the Panoramic Express, increasing uphill capacity to 38,000 skiers an hour, and the resort today has over 500 lodging units and over 47,000 square feet of retail shopping and restaurant space at the base of the mountain.
But perhaps his most well-known success was in building a coalition between several partners and political allies to bring back the train from Denver’s Union Station to Winter Park Resort. The original beloved train to Winter Park ended in 2009, but today the now named Winter Park Express is transporting over 500 skiers to Winter Park on weekends and some Fridays. This service now makes Winter Park the only resort in North America where it is possible to take a train from a world class international airport to downtown, and then take a train to a world class ski resort.
For his 20 years of service transforming Winter Park to one of the largest ski resorts in Colorado, for securing financial success from the resort for the City of Denver, and for reviving the Winter Park Express, Gary DeFrange is worthy of entering the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.
Barney Ford has one of the most remarkable stories of anyone who has ever been in Colorado’s hospitality industry. He was born a slave in Virginia in 1822. Although it was illegal at the time, his mother taught him how to read and write. When he was “loaned” out by his master to work on a steamboat as a cook and porter, he saw his opportunity. When the steamboat was docked in Illinois, a free state, he was able with the help of the Underground Railroad, to literally step off the boat and escape.
Then began a series of adventures that would fill several novels. He went to Nicaragua, crossed the West, and panned for gold in the California Gold Rush of 1849. But it was in the Colorado gold rush of 1859 that he achieved fame and fortune.
The laws of the day did not allow Black men to file mine claims. Barney found and worked a gold mine with white partners, but they cheated him and stole the mine. It was then he discovered the one area in the West at the time where he could work freely and where there was no color barrier -- the hospitality industry. Barney went back to his previous skills and opened a hotel and restaurant -- the Inter-Ocean Hotel at 16th and Blake in Denver. Within a short time, he was one of the richest people in the new mining town of Denver.
Barney always said that people “appreciate good quality food and accommodations, but they pay for service.” His philosophy paid off. He became one of the most famous restauranteurs in the West, opening restaurants in Cheyenne, Denver and other locations that were all known for their consistency and quality, but most of all for their service.
Unfortunately, none of the hotels or restaurants survive. Most of them burned down in fires or are long forgotten. However, Barney and his wife built a gorgeous home on Main Street in Breckenridge, and the house is open today as the Barney Ford Museum. The museum does an excellent job of telling the story of Barney Ford, and how, because there was no color barrier in the hospitality industry in the West, he was able to amass a fortune by providing something that was in short supply – quality food, outstanding accommodations and excellent service. Barney Ford died in 1902. There is a stained glass portrait of him in the Colorado State Capitol.
2017 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 Classic Bike Race and Velorama Festival
Colorado Classic and Velorama Festival was a first time event that brought together men’s and women’s professional bike racing, world-class music and a downtown music, food and beer festival that celebrated all things cycling. Together, they created an event like no other in Colorado history. The Colorado Classic brought professional bike racing back to the state with a four-stage, four-day race that took men and women competitors over 313 miles and climbed more than 20,000 feet in altitude. The women kicked off the event in Denver with a circuit race in RiNo (River North) Art District on Friday night. The third stage of the men's race on Saturday used the RiNo neighborhood as a start and finish, heading up to Gilpin County and then circling back downtown, allowing tens of thousands of spectators to view the race for free. On Sunday, the men finished their race with a thrilling 7.5-mile city circuit from RiNo to City Park, allowing thousands of fans lining the streets to watch 10 laps of high-speed racing until the dramatic sprint to finish. Velorama, the companion three-day music and cycling fan festival provided premium views of the race’s start, finish and criterium, allowing fans to sip a Colorado craft beer and shop from local artisans as they watched some of the world's top cyclists in action. When the racing was over, Velorama provided an extravaganza of music and event entertainment with headliner bands Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Saint Motel, the Old 97s and the Jayhawks plus local Colorado acts such as Rob Drabkin. The festival also had special events, a bike and lifestyle expo, a craft marketplace, nearly 50 local food trucks and craft beer from 13 Denver brewers. The event will be back even bigger and better August 16-19, 2018 and will become an annual Colorado tradition.
CONCACAF Gold Cup
Denver and Mile High Stadium were proud to host two important games of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup in July 2017. This was the 14th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the biennial international men's soccer championship of the North, Central American and Caribbean region organized by CONCACAF, and the 24th CONCACAF regional championship overall. Four soccer squads faced off in Denver: El Salvador played Curacao , followed by Mexico vs. Jamaica. Ultimately, the United States team won their sixth title with a 2-1 victory over Jamaica in the final. The games not only brought 50,000 fans from all over the world, but helped put Denver in the spotlight once again as an international soccer fan city. In addition to the game, a Futbol Fiesta at the stadium offered food, music, beverages and CONCACAF Gold Cup merchandise.
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum presented Her Paris, Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, which included remarkable works created by women in Paris from 1850 to 1900. This was a time of great social, cultural and artistic change. The exhibition featured more than 80 paintings by 37 women artists from across Europe and America, who had migrated to this epicenter of art to further their careers. They range from well-known artists such as Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Rosa Bonheur, to painters who are lesser-known in the United States, including Anna Ancher and Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Even though Paris was known as a cosmopolitan city, Parisian society was still very restrictive for women. They were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) – the country’s most important art academy – until 1897, and it was not socially acceptable to frequent public spaces, such as cafés, to work on their art and mingle with their peers without a male companion. At a time where the role of women in American society is still being debated, this was an exceptional show to have in Denver, where it generated much press and visitation.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens presented Calder: Monumental featuring works by American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976). He is considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century and is known for his bold, energetic sculptures. These iconic works of bolted steel plate – which rise in sweeping curves, or puncture space with geometric lines, revealing the artist’s exploration of forms, volumes, and voids – were placed throughout the Gardens. Using shapes that resonate with the natural world, Calder’s large lively abstractions interacted with the surrounding landscape and offered new vistas of art in every direction in the Gardens, bringing back return visitors, while also generating new ones.
Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway presented the pre-Broadway debut of Disney’s Frozen. Over a seven-week period, Disney’s hit musical drew 125,900 people to 47 performances at the Buell Theatre, generating more than $30 million in economic impact. People attending performances not only paid for theatre tickets, but also went to dinners and lunches, visited museums, and shopped downtown before and after the show. In addition, as the only city to host Frozen before its Broadway debut, the show attracted patrons to Denver from throughout the Rocky Mountain West, who also used local transportation, hotels, services and other restaurants and entertainment during their stay. The pre-Broadway debut of Frozen continued DCPA’s long relationship with Disney touring shows, which have generated $73 million in box office receipts over the last 20 years, with an estimated economic impact of $267 million to Denver.
Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport had a spectacular year of living us to the “international” part of its name by following up on the success of nonstop flights to Tokyo and Munich with new successes such as Norwegian’s nonstop flight to London, Gatwick, U.K. , Copa Airlines’ nonstop flight to to Panama City, Panama, Southwest’s nonstop flight To Belize City, Belize and United’s nonstop flight to Cozumel, Mexico. Also coming in 2018 will be United’s nonstop flight from London Heathrow, U.K., new airline Westjet from Calgary, Canada, Norwegian Air from Paris, France, and another new airline, Edelweiss, from Zurich, Switzerland. DEN currently serves 26 international destinations in 11 countries and 25 airlines and has nonstop flights to more than to 190 cities, 160 of them in the U.S. In addition, plans for a major refurbishing of the airport’s terminal were approved by Denver City Council in 2017 and work will begin shortly on both an expansion of the number of gates and a complete redesign of the Jeppesen Terminal. For its stunning collection of successes in 2017, DEN is clearly a tourism star.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science presented Vikings: Beyond the Legend, a myth-busting exhibition that had already captivated a million people around the world. Bringing this show to Denver laid waste to the one-dimensional stereotype of bearded barbarians with horned helmets. Instead, it showed a culture of surprising refinement, complexity, and achievement, as well as a supernatural world inhabited by Thor, Odin, and other gods and giants. Fresh insights revealed through new archaeological discoveries and more than 500 treasures, many never before seen outside of Scandinavia, show why the Vikings will always capture our imagination. Unique to Denver, six enactors created historically accurate characters and interacted with guests to tell personally interesting and relevant stories, fostering truly custom and memorable exhibition experiences for guests. The show continued the museum’s dedication to bring popular world class exhibitions to The Mile High City.
The Denver Zoo showcased DINOS! Live at Denver Zoo, supported by Your Hometown Toyota Stores. The exhibit featured 21 of the “terrible lizard” sculptures, 18 of which were animatronic, and offered guests a chance to see these prehistoric creatures brought to life among the Zoo’s living animals. Dinosaurs were placed near animals with which they had something in common. For example, an Edmontonia, a leaf-eating dinosaur, was positioned in a garden near other plant-eating animals, while a Utahraptor, a feathered species, was placed outside Bird World. From the familiar Tyrannosaurus rex to the lesser known Carnotaurus, guests could watch the dinosaurs move and roar, while one dinosaur, a Dilophosaurus, even sprayed water. A fossil dig gave budding paleontologists the chance to get their hands dirty while discovering dinosaur bones. The exhibit served to educate guests about prehistoric zoology while also exposing them to the amazing animals living at the Zoo every day. DINOS! Live at Denver Zoo helped Denver Zoo retain its title as one of the top attractions in Denver, while also bringing first-time and repeat visitors to Denver.
Slow Food Nations
In July 2017, Denver welcomed the culinary world for Slow Food Nations, an international festival to celebrate and explore good, clean and fair food for all. The weekend event combined the energy of a street food festival with the rigor of an academic conference and cultural exchange as chefs, food experts and food writers from around the world gathered in The Mile High City for dozens of interactive workshops, delicious tastings, local tours, educational talks, information exchanges with local chefs and dozens of meals and parties. Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. It connects farmers and families, leaders and eaters to share stories and shape the future of food. The show was such a success in Denver in 2017 that it will return July 13-15, 2018, once again shining the world spotlight on Denver as an international culinary destination.
Bravo Network’s smash-hit culinary competition series Top Chef sent judges and competitors to the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado for its 15th season, currently airing Thursday nights on the network. Episodes take place in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. Padma Lakshmi returns as host alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot. Top Chef typically recruits a roster of chefs from many cities across the country to compete, but also includes a plethora of cameos made by food-universe stars, such as Richard Blais, Curtis Stone, David Kinch, Wylie Dufresne and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, who are among the many guest judges appearing this season. Of course, many of Denver’s own chefs appear on the show, which showcases the dining and culinary scene in the Mile High City and throughout Colorado. For all that Top Chef will do for Denver dining, they are to be honored with a Tourism Star.