Tourism boosters must think longingly of the days when Colorado needed no more advertisement than a Muppet-haired troubadour on a "Rocky Mountain High," singing about how he was born in the summer of his 27th year, when he discovered the joys of campfires and really good pot, and moved to the state whose capitol city had provided his new name: John Denver.
Thirty years later, pot -- in the form of medical marijuana -- is one of Colorado's true growth industries; the legislature is again considering cutting the state tourism budget (there's a hearing tomorrow) and the former John Henry Deutschendorf is gone, killed in a plane crash in 1997. But his music and contributions pushing Colorado's image were honored last night at Visit Denver's thirteenth annual Tourism Hall of Fame awards ceremony, at which John Denver -- who was the first person enshrined in the new Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2011 -- was also inducted into the state's Tourism Hall of Fame.
The other three inductees are very much alive: Nick LeMasters, the longtime general manager of Cherry Creek Shopping Center, which always ranks as one of the top tourist attractions in Denver; Pete Meersman, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association; and Charlie Papazian, a true entrepreneur (and our Best Goodwill Ambassador in 2000), who helped create one of Colorado's most liquid assets: craft beer.
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As the founder of the Brewers Association, Papazian started the Great American Beer Festival, which fills Denver every September with thousands of beers and tens of thousands of beer fans. In his greeting to the group, "my peeps," Governor John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub back when he was a laid-off geologist, compared Papazian to Moses, leading us out of the desert...and into an oasis of good beer.
Hickenlooper noted that after a couple of recent bloopers, people have been paying very close attention to his introductions -- and he then offered a very careful one of Mayor Michael Hancock, who referred to the "most informative intro" that the governor had offered from the same stage at last week's Colorado Business Committee for the Arts luncheon. Hancock went on to list the assorted stunts he'd done to promote tourism, including making a Denver omelet to promote Visit Denver's Denver Restaurant Week. "One thing for sure," he said, "you people know how to party."
Rocky Mountain high.
John Denver may rate the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and the Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame -- but not the Colorado Badminton Hall of Fame. Read about some of the state's odder halls in "The Colorado Music Hall of Fame isn't the state's only claim to fame."