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Home CO Production CO Best of Awards Best of Colorado 2016: 10th Anniversary

Best of Colorado 2016: 10th Anniversary

By Shelly Steig

There’s a lot about the number 10 to consider. It’s a triangular figure-like in the setup of bowling pins. It’s how many digits we have on our hands and feet. It was the number ancient mathematician Pythagoras considered sacred and was David Letterman’s biggest shtick. But more importantly, it’s the 10th year Colorado Meetings + Events has unveiled the annual Best of Colorado Awards. 

Bowling You Over

This year’s roster of winners includes first timers— businesses that threw a strike and toppled all 10 pins. First up is JA Special Events, new to the award’s list as Best Meeting/Event Planning Company. Owner, lead designer and planner Jessica Adler has two decades of experience in the industry. Lisa Anderson, owner of Sweet Pea Flowers, says, “Jessica understands and listens to her clients, whether you use her for a day or for your entire planning process. She will work very hard to give you the personal attention you need and deserve. She’s great at connecting the right vendor to the right client.”

St Julien Hotel & Spa rolled a winner in the Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/Event Space Outside Denver Metro (More than 200 Guest Rooms) category. Located near Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall and world-class hiking, this Colorado arts and crafts masterpiece features a classy and comfortable interior, stunning views of the Flatirons and plenty of meeting space.

One of the state’s most unique venues is Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Coming first in the category for Best Meeting/Event Venue in Denver Metro (No Hotel), this museum is housed in a World War II-era hangar built in 1939. Parked inside are aircraft ranging from a 1940 B-18A to a threequarter- size replica of an X-Wing Starfighter from the Lucasfilm franchise.

When it comes to Best Meeting/Event Venue Outside Denver Metro (No Hotel), voters chose Copper Mountain Resort. With its flexible space, slopeside views and floor-toceiling windows, Copper Conference Center is an ideal mountain setting. Organizers can even combine the venue with Copper Pavilion, a seasonal outdoor area, and Jack’s Banquet Hall, located adjacent to the conference center and can be used as a banquet space.

Another newbie, PSAV, took top spot for Best Audio-Visual Provider. Linda Watson, event planner for Office Depot, says, “Matt Massaro was outstanding to work with. He was always available when we needed him, offered solutions to help us accomplish our needs and stayed within our budget. He was also very patient with our group and the last-minute changes we had to our production needs.”

Allée Photography wins the Best Photographer/Videographer award. Lilli Black, owner of Sweetly Paired Weddings, says, “Kevin and Betty Kay Becker are often the photographers for our monthly meetings. They are so personable and fun. They really capture the personality of the target of their cameras. What makes Allèe so special is the teamwork between the photographers. To use both points of view—masculine and feminine—to really capture all the moments!”

For Best Caterer Outside Denver Metro, voters chose Biscuits and Berries in Golden. Cydney Johnson, owner of Stiletto Events, LLC, has used the catering company for many events over the last six years. Johnson voted for Biscuits and Berries because the chefs create unique dishes with Colorado-grown products. She says, “I’ve enjoyed working with them, and all of my clients were very satisfied with their catering.”

Rocky Mountain National Park tops the scorecard for Best Attraction Outside Denver Metro. Ashley Sodaro, program manager, executive education at Daniels College of Business, voted for the park because of its beautiful scenery, friendly staff, and adventure and educational opportunities. She notes, “While I appreciate fancy and formal events, there is something to be said for experiencing the best of Colorado.”

Give Them a Hand

You can count on just your fingers how many times these organizations have won, since they’ve been at the top of COM+E’s annual listing since many of the categories were introduced. Perennial winner The Broadmoor finished in a top spot—only this time it was winner for the Best Historic Venue. Some readers may not be familiar with the property’s quirky history. Founder Spencer Penrose despised Prohibition. When Penrose invited top-tier hoteliers and members of the press in 1920, he asked them to bring “five bottles of their favorite cologne”—code for illegal alcohol. Many celebrities, foreign dignitaries and United States’ presidents along with groups have stayed at this historic gem, including George W. Bush, who famously quit drinking after his stay there.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is making a habit of winning the category Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/Event Space Outside Denver Metro (200 or Less Guest Rooms). Nestled on 6,000 acres 20 minutes from Winter Park, the property offers groups accommodations with two lodges and a cluster of cabins in the woods along with two historic barns and an array of other interesting gathering places. Fine dining and year-round recreation options make Devil’s Thumb a unique choice.

COM+E welcomes back JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek as Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/Event Space in Denver Metro (200 or Less Guest Rooms). Sarah Atchley, director of corporate events for Janus Capital Group, says feedback always mentions how amazing the catering is, even for large groups. Atchley adds that the hotel’s new Fireside event space “lends itself to a number of different event types. It’s near the patio with all its fire pits, so even in winter it’s a cozy space.”

Colorado Mountain Express continues to impress customers in the Best Transportation category. The company recently added 20 new Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans to its fleet. These energy-efficient vehicles offer quiet rides and large windows for guests to enjoy the scenery.

For the 10th year in a row, Event Rents has won Best Rental Service. Clients find all the products needed for a gala, with an incredible variety of choices including trendy linen lines and specialty items such as whiskey barrel fire pits, rough-hewn tables and industrial-chic chairs.

When it comes to taste, Epicurean Group gets the nod for Best Caterer in Denver Metro. “As the director of client services with one of Colorado’s largest DMCs, Destination Services Corporation, I have the opportunity to work with many caterers and food service providers, and have seen it all,” says Jennah Lagomarsino. “I can honestly say that in 10-plus years of using Epicurean on the average five to 10 times a year, I have never had an issue with their food quality, service or timing. They are consistently top-notch and always make my job easier and make us look good to our clients.”

VISIT DENVER holds a decade-long run as Best Desxtination Marketing Organization (Town/Area 25,000+ in Population). The organization’s triumphs in 2015 include being the first DMO in the United States to earn a Level 2 green meeting certification and seeing voters approve more than $800 million toward the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center and construction of a new National Western Center. CCC will add flexible meeting space up to 85,000 square feet, another 120,000 square feet of prefunction and service space and 50,000 square feet of outdoor terrace.

Pythagoras vs. Letterman

While they both put emphasis on the number 10, Pythagoras was reverent while Letterman was utterly irreverent. The following winners combined serious business with loads of fun to become leaders in their respective categories.

Erik St. Martin turned to Convention Designs, which has won four years in the Best Destination Management Company category, to organize the second annual GopherCon—a convention for programmers using Go language. President Heather Sullivan took the reins, nearly doubling the attendees and providing sufficient technology for attendees to geek out in style— including a breakout session where conferees built gobots. St. Martin emphasizes, “We are not doing another one without Heather. We could probably bounce around the country, but she’s the reason we’re in Colorado.”

Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center won in two categories this year: Best Renovation Project at Hotel or Event Venue (Completed between Oct. 1, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015) and Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/Event Space in Denver Metro Area (More than 200 Guest Rooms). Judy Lee-Kirchmann, global account executive at ConferenceDirect, says, “I’m always a bit uneasy when I hear a hotel is going to be renovated. The end result can take away from the uniqueness of a hotel. However, at the Hyatt Regency you immediately know you’re in Colorado. The essence of the Rocky Mountains, and the state, is evident everywhere.” When it comes to customer service, she adds, “Our smaller group was in-house the same time a rather large group was taking place. However, you wouldn’t have known it at all by the promptness of the staff who managed our event, as well as the layout of the hotel, which successfully lends itself to hosting multiple groups meeting at the same time.”

Maggiano’s Little Italy grabbed the top spot for Best Restaurant/Bar with Private Dining Space. The Denver Tech Center and downtown locations have added experiential events, such as murder mystery dinners and Pinot & Paints, where attendees sip wine while creating a masterpiece. Both Maggiano’s locations also offer beer and wine dinners.

If it is possible to be everywhere at once, then AXS Group, winner of Best Entertainment Agency, would be there. In 2015, this one-stop shop for all entertainment needs managed nearly 525 programs, organized more than 715 transportation moves, booked entertainment for more than 250 events (including in-house bands for 160 gatherings), produced 130 off-site events and executed 47 unique team-building and group activities and tours. Whew!

There is a two-way tie for Best Event Décor/ Floral. DNM Events, previously known as Décor ‘N More, gets the nod for crazily creative parties such as the Halloween bash commissioned by Ryan and Jill Ahrens. Darren Venteicher, owner, and Mark Lively, creative director, transformed the Clock Tower into a classic horror haven with each floor representing a different theme. On the witch’s level, they served dragon’s breath popcorn, which when consumed makes fog pour out of eaters’ mouths.

Co-winner for Best Event Décor/Floral, DesignWorks is known for turning a theme on its head to create one-of-a-kind events. For a bat mitzvah at St Julien Hotel & Spa, the team combined the honoree’s love of candy and dancing into a memorable celebration. Complex, colorful details included florals in bright blue, purple, green and pink; groupings of lounge furniture prompting a nightclub feel; and a custom-created logo gracing the dance floor and served as a central design piece.

Legendary concerts by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and U2 put Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the map. COM+E voters put it at the top of the heap for Best Attraction in Denver Metro and Best Outdoor Meeting/Event Venue. The world’s only naturally occurring acoustic amphitheatre also has been the favorite spot for live recordings by the likes of Mumford & Sons, Stevie Nicks and Dave Matthews Band. A bonus for event planners is the 30,000-squarefoot Visitor Center with flexible space.

Gena Erwin, director of conferences, partnerships and publications at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, voted for winner Vail Valley Partnership as Best Destination Marketing Organization (Town/ Area Less than 25,000 in Population). She says, “I love everything about the Vail Valley. The mountains are calming and exciting, there is always so much to do.”

Cheers to all the winners and runners-up and best wishes for another great decade!