A few of our favorite things
Danny Newman is full of ideas. He has been since middle and high school, when he attended the Denver School of the Arts. As an adult, the 29-year-old Newman has managed to turn a lot of those ideas into reality — from his creation of the Denver Zombie Crawl, which attracted more than 3,000 people to the 16th Street Mall last year, to ID345, the iPhone and iPad application development company he co-founded.
Last year, ID345 created the R-U Buzzed? app, which helps people determine if they're too drunk to drive, for the Colorado Department of Transportation; several other states have expressed an interest in a similar product. But the company also makes apps for the movie and restaurant industries. To help foster a community of tech start-ups like his, a few years ago Newman bought a building at 2936 Larimer Street, the ID345 Space, which offers cheap office and meeting space to similarly minded entrepreneurs.
Oh, and then there's Newman's home: a renovated church turned Masonic temple turned burrito factory near Federal Boulevard in the Barnum neighborhood. "I was looking for a weird structure that I could make into a house," he says. The neighborhood "was a little sketchy at first, but a lot of artists and musicians moved in and made this area very cool." But, Newman adds, that's to be expected in Denver, a city that as a kid he found a little boring but which he's come to love — from the little Vietnamese pho restaurants and taco trucks in his neighborhood to upscale arts events like Doors Open Denver, Untitled at the Denver Art Museum and Mixed Tastes at MCA Denver.
Not that he's all about the finer things. This year's Zombie Crawl, he insists, will be even bigger than last year's, with bigger musical acts and some real freak-show stuff like fire-breathers and some Suicide Girls.
"I'm stoked that the economy is turning around and that people are doing fun projects again," he says.
Smart thinking for a guy who eats brains.
Vanessa Delgado has always liked to speak up. Raised in the Denver area in a massive family, she was the one who always got in trouble for talking in class. "I have six aunts here, two uncles and thirty cousins," she says. "It's somebody's birthday every weekend, and we have to have a family meeting just to reserve a time!"
By the age of thirteen, she was following her grandfather, the poet Lalo Delgado, around to poetry readings. After college, she worked for four years as a newspaper reporter, and later with the UFCW and the Senate Majority Office at the Colorado Legislature. Now, as she approaches her 26th birthday, Delgado is a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management. Always speaking up.
But it was the poetic roots of her grandfather, a professor and activist who was posthumously named Denver's first poet laureate in 2004, that always inspired her. And those roots are why that same year, a group of young Latino poets, including Vanessa, started Cafe Cultura — a twice-monthly performance-poetry session and open-mike night held at the Denver Inner City Parish. "We took it upon ourselves to start a new organization," she says. "What's nice with Cafe Cultura is that you get some young kids who are the same age I was when I started, and you see them perform and do their thing and let some things go."
Delgado, who lives in Wheat Ridge, sees poetry all over the Denver area. "I love to go hiking," she says. "There's a nice little hike at Red Rocks. It's a mile and a quarter, and it's a neat little walk because the geology is so interesting."
There's liquid poetry, too: "The Coors tour is one of my favorite things." As for solid sustenance, Delgado professes love for both Casa Bonita and the Wazee Supper Club. "They have such good food," she says of the Wazee. "A lot of people go there, but it hasn't gotten stuffy. You can still order a pitcher of PBR and not feel guilty."
In fact, Delgado loves almost everything about her home town, and she's not afraid to admit it. "I'm probably Colorado's number-one spokesperson," she concludes.
Maybe it was something in the beer he'd been brewing at home, or maybe it was just a latent desire to be smashed up against the sides of a rink. Whatever the reason, seven years ago, at the age of 29, Kevin DeLange decided to take up hockey. "I couldn't even skate," says DeLange, who plays on a couple of rec-league teams. "Now I'm a goalie."
The hockey culture, from the Colorado Avalanche to the Ice Ranch in Littleton, where he often plays, is one of DeLange's favorite things about Denver.
But this city's beer culture is what has really defined his life. DeLange is the founder of Dry Dock Brewing Company, a tiny brewery and tasting room in an Aurora strip mall that just happened to win three medals at last year's Great American Beer Festival, including the prestigious Small Brewer of the Year award. But by then, Dry Dock was a little less small: DeLange had expanded into a new space next to the old location, taking advantage of a provision in the Obama administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that waived the usual fees associated with Small Business Administration loans. In Dry Dock's case, the savings amounted to $15,000, which DeLange poured back into the business. The success story caught the attention of NPR, which did a story on Dry Dock.
With all the attention from the awards and the media, Dry Dock has already maxed out. The company will produce 1,200 barrels of beer this year, up from 800 last year and 400 in 2008.
"Denver really is becoming the Napa Valley of Beer," DeLange says. "It's just fantastic what the beer selection is and how many breweries there are." But he's also a fan of Denver's weather. Having grown up in Iowa, he says, one of the best things about Denver is that it gets all four seasons — but in moderation.
And that's why, come snow or shine, there's always beer on tap at Dry Dock.
Amber Johnson is a professional mama, so professional that she makes her living doing it. The 38-year-old Johnson not only founded the Mile High Mamas blog, which she now operates for the Denver Post, but she also runs a home-based social media marketing company that does work for ski areas and promotions for big brands like Nintendo and Frigidaire. And earlier this year, she was picked — and then hired — by Microsoft to blog about the Olympics from Vancouver. Her site, www.crazybloggincannuck.com, is still active, and will be throughout the year while she helps Microsoft promote Office 2010.
Not a bad gig for a Canadian native who loves the outdoor life so much that Denver's REI flagship store is her favorite place in town.
"It's my happy place, no lie," says Johnson, who lives in Arvada with her husband and two toddlers, Hadley and Bode. "They have a play area on the top floor which is near the clearance areas, so the kids will play while I shop." Afterward, Johnson likes to take the family for walks through Confluence Park, to watch the kayakers, and up the Platte, either via trolley or on foot, to the Denver Children's Museum."
Her other favorite walking tour begins at Little Man Ice Cream, continues through the playground across the street, and then goes across the 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge to see Denver's infamous "National Velvet" sculpture. "There are so many cool walking areas in Denver that we do that as often as we can," she says.
Blake Harrison is a busy man. He's the father of two, has a job as a Denver deputy district attorney, and last year decided to run for the hotly contested state District 7 seat being vacated by Terrance Carroll, the term-limited Speaker of the House. A Frisco native who moved to Denver twelve years ago, Harrison will face four other Democratic candidates in the August 10 primary.
Oh, and he's also proposing a ballot initiative that would put an end to a Prohibition-era law and allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor. By taking his initiative to the people — he'll need 76,000 signatures to get on the November ballot — Harrison is circumventing state lawmakers who have repeatedly shot down similar proposals.
"I'm busy, and most of the people I've talked to are busy, too," says the 39-year-old Harrison, explaining why it would be nice to one-stop-shop for groceries and booze. That's a convenience he's thought about a lot. In 2002, while he was a student at the University of Denver, Harrison put together a ballot initiative that would have legalized Sunday liquor sales in the state. Although the effort failed, the legislature finally legalized Sunday sales in 2008.
Fortunately, Harrison's got the relaxing vibe of Stapleton to clear his mind after politicking. "I used to live in Capitol Hill and enjoyed walking everywhere to all the fun events around there," he says. "Since we moved to Stapleton, things have changed a little bit. Here they have Stapleton Under the Stars, where you bring your kids and watch a movie outside, and summer concerts with local bands."
Harrison is also a fan of City Park Jazz, the series of free concerts that typically attracts thousands of people on summer Sundays.
And speaking of Sundays, he adds, "We also like the fact that we can go to a liquor store on Sunday now and pick up a bottle of wine and take it with us to the park."