Visit Denver just announced the people who will be inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame at the thirteenth annual celebration set for March 14, 2012, and the list includes two key people from the Colorado drinking/dining scene: Great American Beer Festival president Charlie Papazian and Pete Meersman, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association.
Papazian started the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder when it was still illegal to homebrew, much less operate a brewpub in Colorado. He went on to found the Great American Beer Festival more than thirty years ago.
In tapping Papazian for the honor, Visit Denver cited his work in "establishing Denver and Colorado as craft-beer centers, and for creating and growing the Great American Beer Festival into the largest beer festival on earth."
Meersman began working with the Colorado Restaurant Association in 1982, and became its president and CEO in 1989. He was a key player in the campaign to defeat Initiative 300 this fall, which would have heavily impacted restaurants -- although that's not mentioned in the Visit Denver announcement. Instead, he's cited for his work "in building Colorado's strong restaurant industry and resurrecting Colorado's tourism marketing efforts."
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Two other names are on the 2012 list: Nick LeMasters, head of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and the late John Denver, "for his work in promoting the beauty of Colorado around the world through his music, songs and television specials."
The March 14 awards banquet celebrating Denver's second largest industry at the Seawell Ballroom is a fundraiser for the Visit Denver Foundation.