Last night, I was sitting at a picnic bench in the Sculpture Park at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, looking past the crowds at Westword's Dish event to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the site of Barack Obama's acceptance speech for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination on the last night of the 2008 DNC in Denver.
At the same time last night, Barack Obama was making his second presidential nomination acceptance speech, inside the Time Warner Convention Center, on the last night of the 2012 DNC. The quick move from an outdoor stadium in Charlotte -- prompted by worries about the weather even though, as in Denver, the speech had been billed as "rain or shine" -- meant that those who got to hear the president this time were limited to delegates and party insiders.
But as the DNC in Denver showed, the convention had a major impact on people around the city who might have had no hand in planning it and no hand in party politics, but who got to experience it nonetheless. Sitting near me last night was Famous Artist Phil Bender, who'd worked as a driver during the DNC, and pulled a sixteen-hour shift on that last day. That was okay with him, though, because he was earning $20 an hour. During Obama's speech, he was sitting in his car in the Pepsi Center lot, waiting to be summoned, hearing snippets of the speech and looking at the stadium in a city that suddenly looked all new.
He's not the only one who has amazing memories of that time. I interviewed many of the convention planners and insiders for "A Mile High," originally published in our August 30 issue. But as I've talked with people before and since the four year anniversary, more stories keep pouring out.
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Molly Kreck, who now works for Governor John Hickenlooper (he was Mayor John Hickenlooper during the DNC), was with the Associated Press during the 2008 convention. She was working in the jammed photography area in the Pepsi Center when she walked into a body -- and it turned out to be Chevy Chase, who had just decided to lie down in the middle of the action.
Paul Tamburello, the developer who turned the old Olinger's mortuary facility into a retail/restaurant complex that includes Linger and Lola, among other ventures, remembers being contacted by the feds -- who'd learned that Olinger's had the largest cold storage facility for bodies in the area.
Fortunately, it wasn't needed.
What kind of city has Denver become? Read the thoughts of some of our top toques in "Local chefs dish on Denver's dining scene."